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posted by janrinok on Sunday April 15 2018, @08:55AM   Printer-friendly
from the more-whoosh-per-buck dept.

Blue Origin's orbital rocket in the running to receive U.S. military investment

Blue Origin submitted a proposal late last year in what's expected to be a four-way competition for U.S. Air Force funding to support development of new orbital-class rockets, a further step taken by the Jeff Bezos-owned company to break into the military launch market, industry officials said. The proposal, confirmed by two space industry sources, puts Blue Origin up against SpaceX, Orbital ATK and United Launch Alliance, which could use Blue Origin's BE-4 engine to power its next-generation Vulcan rocket. It also sets up the New Glenn rocket, in development by Blue Origin, to be certified by the Air Force for national security missions.

Blue Origin received funding in an earlier phase of the Air Force's initiative to help companies develop new liquid-fueled U.S.-built booster engines in a bid to end the military's reliance on the Russian RD-180 powerplant, which drives the first stage of ULA's Atlas 5 rocket. The Air Force's money supported development of the BE-4 engine, which was designed with private money, and is still primarily a privately-funded program. The Pentagon funding announced in early 2016 for the BE-4 program was directly awarded to ULA, which routed the money to Blue Origin's engine program.

SpaceX, Orbital ATK and Aerojet Rocketdyne also received Air Force funding in 2016 for propulsion work. SpaceX used the Air Force money for its methane-fueled Raptor engine, which will power the company's next-generation super-heavy BFR launcher. Orbital ATK is developing its own launcher for national security missions, which would use solid-fueled rocket motors for the initial boost into space, then use a hydrogen-fueled upper stage for orbital injection. Aerojet Rocketdyne's AR1 engine is a backup option for ULA's new Vulcan rocket.

Previously: U.S. Air Force Awards SpaceX $40.7 Million for Raptor Engine Development
Aerojet Rocketdyne Seeks More U.S. Air Force Funding for AR1 Rocket Engine

Related: Jeff Bezos' Vision for Space: One Trillion Population in the Solar System
NASA Opens Door to Possibly Lowering SLS Cost Using Blue Origin's Engines
SpaceX BFR vs. ULA Vulcan Showdown in the 2020s


Original Submission

Related Stories

Jeff Bezos' Vision for Space: One Trillion Population in the Solar System 39 comments

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos talked about his vision for Blue Origin and humanity at the Apollo 11 Gala at Kennedy Space Center:

For Bezos, colonising space is a more a simple necessity for continued life on Earth. The compound effect of the incremental increase in energy requirements will mean us having to cover every inch of Earth in solar cells, he said, while the solar system offers virtually unlimited energy resources.

"We can harvest resources from asteroids, from Near-Earth Objects, and harvest solar energy from a much broader surface area – and continue to do amazing things," he said. The alternative, he said, was an era of stasis and stagnation on Earth, where we are forced to control population and limit energy usage per capita.

"I don't think stasis is compatible with freedom or liberty, and I sure as hell think it's going to be a very boring world – I want my grandchildren's grandchildren to be in a world of pioneering, exploration and expansion throughout the solar system."

He also suggested that exploration and colonisation of the solar system would make it possible to support one trillion people.

"Then we would have 1,000 Einstein's and 1,000 Mozarts, how cool would that be?" he said.

"What's holding us back from making that next step is that space travel is just too darned expensive because we throw the rockets away. We need to build reusable rockets and that's what Blue Origin is dedicated to."


Original Submission

U.S. Air Force Awards SpaceX $40.7 Million for Raptor Engine Development 8 comments

Air Force adds more than $40 million to SpaceX engine contract

The U.S. Air Force has provided SpaceX with an additional $40.7 million to support continued development of the company's Raptor engine.

A Defense Department contract announcement Oct. 19 stated that the Air Force was modifying an existing agreement with SpaceX, originally awarded in January 2016, by providing the company with $40.766 million "for the development of the Raptor rocket propulsion system prototype for the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program."

The statement didn't include additional information about the nature of the work other than that it would be completed by the end of April 2018. The work, according to the announcement, would be carried out at NASA's Stennis Space Center, which hosts engine testing for the Raptor, as well as SpaceX's headquarters in Hawthorne, California and Los Angeles Air Force Base, home to the Air Force's Space and Missile Systems Center.

The Raptor engines are one of the components needed for SpaceX's upcoming super heavy-lift launch vehicle now known as the BFR. Falcon Heavy uses Merlin 1D rocket engines.


Original Submission

NASA Opens Door to Possibly Lowering SLS Cost Using Blue Origin's Engines 19 comments

NASA could use an engine developed by Blue Origin instead of the four RL-10 engines currently used by the Space Launch System (SLS):

[One] problem with legacy hardware, built by traditional contractors such as Orbital ATK and Aerojet Rocketdyne, is that it's expensive. And while NASA has not released per-flight estimates of the expendable SLS rocket's cost, conservative estimates peg it at $1.5 to $2.5 billion per launch. The cost is so high that it effectively precludes more than one to two SLS launches per year.

[...] [The RL-10] engines, manufactured by Aerojet Rocketdyne, are also costly. (Ars understands that NASA paid an average of $17 million for each RL-10 engine for the maiden Exploration Upper Stage vehicle). So in October, to power the EUS, the space agency issued a request for information to the aerospace community for "a low cost drop-in replacement engine to minimize program cost." According to the document, the initial set of four engines would be needed in mid-2023 to prepare for the third flight of the SLS rocket, known as Exploration Mission-3.

Then, after an extension of the deadline for responses beyond mid-November, NASA revised the RFI on December 1. The revised document no longer seeks a "drop-in replacement" for the RL-10 engine, rather it asks for a "low-cost replacement engine." Although this seems like a subtle change, sources within the aerospace industry indicated to Ars that it is significant. According to NASA, it was done to increase the number of responses.

[...] That would probably include Blue Origin's BE-3U engine, which the company plans to use for its upper stage on the New Glenn heavy lift rocket. This is a modified version of the BE-3 engine that powers the New Shepard rocket, which has now flown successfully seven times. Blue Origin has previously marketed the BE-3U to Orbital ATK for its Next Generation Launch System, which is looking for an upper stage engine. A single BE-3U provides about 120,000 pounds of thrust, which exceeds the 100,000 pounds of thrust provided by four RL-10 engines.

Just cancel SLS and give that money to SpaceX, Blue Origin, or anybody willing to launch competitively.

Related: Maiden Flight of the Space Launch System Delayed to 2019
First SLS Mission Will be Unmanned
Commercial Space Companies Want More Money From NASA
Trump Space Adviser: Mars "Too Ambitious" and SLS is a Strategic National Asset
Boeing CEO Says His Company Will Carry Humans to Mars Before SpaceX
President Trump Signs Space Policy Directive 1


Original Submission

Aerojet Rocketdyne Seeks More U.S. Air Force Funding for AR1 Rocket Engine 7 comments

Aerojet Rocketdyne wants the U.S. Air Force to contribute more funding for the development of its AR1 rocket engine. But that may be a hard sell when the mostly privately funded BE-4 from Blue Origin is close to being ready to fly:

In recent years, Aerojet has sought funding from the US Air Force to design and build the AR1, which has approximately 20 percent more thrust than a space shuttle main engine. The Air Force, in turn, has pledged as much as $536 million in development costs provided that Aerojet puts its own skin in the game—about one-third of research and development expenses.

According to a new report in Space News, Aerojet is now saying that even this modest investment is too much, and the company is seeking to reduce its share of the development costs from one-third to one-sixth. "As we look to the next phase of this contract, we are working with the Air Force on a smart and equitable cost-share," Aerojet spokesman Steve Warren told the publication. "We are committed to delivering an engine in 2019."

According to the report, the Air Force is not inclined to renegotiate the agreement. The Air Force's hesitation to increase its investment is probably because the military may not really need the AR1 rocket engine any more due to the emergence of Blue Origin, the rocket company founded by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

Related: Blue Origin Will Build its Rocket Engine in Alabama
NASA Opens Door to Possibly Lowering SLS Cost Using Blue Origin's Engines
After the Falcon Heavy Launch, Time to Defund the Space Launch System?


Original Submission

SpaceX BFR vs. ULA Vulcan Showdown in the 2020s 16 comments

The United Launch Alliance's CEO Tory Bruno has been making his case for the upcoming Vulcan rocket and Advanced Cryogenic Evolved Stage. The system could compete against SpaceX's Falcon Heavy and BFR in the mid-2020s:

The maiden flight of the Vulcan currently is targeted for the middle of 2020. Two successful commercial launches are required as part of the government certification process, followed by a required upper stage upgrade to improve performance, either moving from two to four Centaur RL10 engines or using a different set of engines altogether. If all goes well, ULA will introduce its new upper stage in 2024, the Advanced Cryogenic Evolved Stage, or ACES, that Bruno says will revolutionize spaceflight. "This is on the scale of inventing the airplane," Bruno told reporters during the media roundtable. "That's how revolutionary this upper stage is. It's 1900, and I'm inventing the airplane. People don't even know what they're going to do with it yet. But I'm confident it's going to create a large economy in space that doesn't exist today. No one is working on anything like this."

The Vulcan will stand 228 feet tall with a first stage powered by two engines provided by either Blue Origin, a company owned by Amazon-founder Jeff Bezos, or Aerojet Rocketdyne. Blue Origin's BE-4 engine burns methane and liquid oxygen while Aerojet Rocketdyne's AR-1 powerplant burns a more traditional mixture of oxygen and highly refined kerosene.

[...] ULA plans to begin engine recovery operations after the Vulcan is routinely flying and after the ACES upper stage is implemented. Bruno said the engines represent two-thirds of the cost of the stage and getting them back every time, with no impact on mission performance, will pay big dividends. SpaceX, in contrast, must use propellant to fly its Falcon 9 stages back to touchdown. Heavy payloads bound for high orbits require most if not all of the rocket's propellant and in those cases, recovery may not be possible. As a result, SpaceX's ability to recover rocket stages depends on its manifest and the orbital demands of those payloads.

"Simplistically, if you recover the old booster propulsively then you can do that part of the time, you get all the value back some of the time," Bruno said. "Or, you can recover just the engine, which is our concept, and then you get only part of the value back, about two thirds ... but you get to do it every single time because there's no performance hit. So it really turns into math."

ULA expects to fly at least 7-8 more Delta IV Heavy rockets between now and the early 2020s, with some Atlas V launches happening concurrently with the beginning of Vulcan launches in the mid-2020s.

The U.S. Air Force has just awarded ULA a $355 million contract to launch two Air Force Space Command spacecraft, and SpaceX a $290 million contract to launch three GPS Block III satellites.

In addition to testing BFR with short hops starting in 2019, SpaceX plans to send BFR into orbit by 2020. The company is leasing land in Los Angeles, reportedly for the construction of BFR rockets.

Related: SpaceX's Reusable Rockets Could End EU's Arianespace, and Other News
Boeing CEO Says His Company Will Carry Humans to Mars Before SpaceX
Zuma Failure Emboldens SpaceX's ULA-Backed Critics; Gets Support from US Air Force [Updated]
SpaceX to Launch Five Times in April, Test BFR by 2019


Original Submission

Blue Origin Wins Contract to Supply United Launch Alliance With BE-4 Rocket Engines 5 comments

Jeff Bezos's rocket company beats out spaceflight veteran for engine contract

Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin rocket company just scored a major contract. His company's BE-4 engines will power United Launch Alliance's Vulcan Centaur, a new suite of rockets that will aim to better compete with Elon Musk's SpaceX on price. Its first launch is slated for 2020. The contract award with ULA marks a high-profile vote of confidence for Bezos's space startup.

"We are very glad to have our BE-4 engine selected by United Launch Alliance. United Launch Alliance is the premier launch service provider for national security missions, and we're thrilled to be part of their team and that mission," Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith said in a statement announcing the award on Thursday.

[...] Blue Origin's win does not come as a huge surprise. The BE-4 is further along in development than the comparable Aerojet engine, dubbed the AR1, and is expected to be less expensive to make. [ULA CEO Tory] Bruno previously expressed his preference for Blue's BE-4 over Aerojet's AR1.

BE-4.

Also at Ars Technica.

Related: Blue Origin Will Build its Rocket Engine in Alabama
NASA Opens Door to Possibly Lowering SLS Cost Using Blue Origin's Engines
Aerojet Rocketdyne Seeks More U.S. Air Force Funding for AR1 Rocket Engine
SpaceX BFR vs. ULA Vulcan Showdown in the 2020s
Blue Origin to Compete to Launch U.S. Military Payloads


Original Submission

Blue Origin Plans to Deliver Several Tons of Cargo to the Moon's Surface 44 comments

Jeff Bezos Is Planning to Ship 'Several Metric Tons of Cargo' to the Moon

Blue Origin, described by Bezos as "the most important work I'm doing," signed a letter of intent with German aerospace companies OHB Space Systems and Security and MT Aerospace at the 69th annual International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Germany on Tuesday. The OHB SE dubbed the lunar project the "Blue Moon" mission in a press release.

It's not clear exactly what cargo the Blue Moon mission would transport, but it likely includes infrastructure designed to start private business on the Moon: The IAC also detailed the launch of the "Moon Race," a competition between Blue Origin, Airbus Air and Space, and other space agencies around the world to develop technology that will bring companies around the world to the Moon.

According to a press release, the competition could involve manufacturing products and technology, manufacturing energy sources for humans to survive, getting access to water and sustaining biological life, such as plant or agricultural life—all on the Moon.

Also at Space.com.

Related: Blue Origin to Compete to Launch U.S. Military Payloads
NASA Administrator Ponders the Fate of SLS in Interview (Blue Origin targets Moon landing by 2023)
SpaceX Reveals Plan to Fly Yusaku Maezawa and Artists "Around the Moon" in a BFR
Blue Origin Wins Contract to Supply United Launch Alliance With BE-4 Rocket Engines


Original Submission

Jeff Bezos Details Moon Settlement Ambitions in Interview 49 comments

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Blue Origin are looking to partner with NASA and ESA to help create settlements on the Moon. However, he implied that he would fund development of such a project himself if governments don't:

Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos says his Blue Origin space venture will work with NASA as well as the European Space Agency to create a settlement on the moon. And even if Blue Origin can't strike public-private partnerships, Bezos will do what needs to be done to make it so, he said here at the International Space Development Conference on Friday night.

[...] To facilitate a return to the moon, Blue Origin has a lunar lander on the drawing boards that's designed to be capable of delivery 5 tons of payload to the lunar surface. That's hefty enough to be used for transporting people — and with enough support, it could start flying by the mid-2020s. Blue Origin has proposed building its Blue Moon lander under the terms of a public-private partnership with NASA. "By the way, we'll do that, even if NASA doesn't do it," Bezos said. "We'll do it eventually. We could do it a lot faster if there were a partnership."

[...] It's important to point out that moon settlement isn't just a NASA thing. Bezos told me he loves the European Space Agency's approach, known as the Moon Village. "The Moon Village concept has a nice property in that everybody basically just says, look, everybody builds their own lunar outpost, but let's do it close to each other. That way, if you need a cup of sugar, you can go over to the European Union lunar outpost and say, 'I got my powdered eggs, what have you got?' ... Obviously I'm being silly with the eggs, but there will be real things, like, 'Do you have some oxygen?' "

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 15 2018, @03:59PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 15 2018, @03:59PM (#667289)

    Guess who's been pushing the war agenda? It is the military-industrial complex, as suggested by a dead American warcriminal president.

    The military-industrial complex plan was hatched by some wretched jews in a cave and now they have upgraded to bombing us from orbit.

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