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posted by martyb on Tuesday October 24 2017, @04:22AM   Printer-friendly
from the competition++ dept.

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.

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  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by bradley13 on Tuesday October 24 2017, @09:57AM (3 children)

    by bradley13 (3053) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday October 24 2017, @09:57AM (#586794) Homepage Journal

    I'm rooting for SpaceX, but at this point in time this is the wrong kind of contract. You're being paid - not for results - but for shuffling government paperwork around. The government crawls around in your underwear, on contracts like this, looking at every nitpicking little detail. You write masses of reports, and double your head count over what you actually need, so that you can keep all the government busybodies occupied. I know, because I used to be one of those government busybodies.

    The worst of it is: contracts like this are like drugs. You've built up the infrastructure and personnel needed to deal with the government, so you need to next development contract, in order to make us of that investment. But writing endless reports and entertaining government flunkies is just a distraction from whatever business you are actually in.

    If the DoD wants to support SpaceX, pay them for launches. Pay them generously even. But pay for concrete, specific results, like "launch satellite X into orbit Y".

    Everyone is somebody else's weirdo.
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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 24 2017, @01:17PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 24 2017, @01:17PM (#586834)

    I can only find summaries of the contract. It's not clear what the deliverables are.

    The Air Force goal appears to help wean off the RD-180.
    If this results in more/quicker concrete test results then it is probably good.
    If it results in a variant of the engine, the diversion may be good or not depending on what is learned.
    If it results in more, unnecessary paperwork, then you may be correct.

    It would be nice to understand how this adjusts the timing or content of SpaceX's already planned, ongoing development.
    One has to trust the SpaceX is in a position to nudge things away from disruption and towards complementary support.

    • (Score: 2) by bob_super on Tuesday October 24 2017, @05:08PM

      by bob_super (1357) on Tuesday October 24 2017, @05:08PM (#586944)

      40 million dollars is also a pretty cheap investment for the Air Force to keep ULA under pressure.

  • (Score: 2) by takyon on Tuesday October 24 2017, @05:21PM

    by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Tuesday October 24 2017, @05:21PM (#586951) Journal

    SpaceX has admitted it needs to spend a lot of the government's money to get to Mars. Developing the new engine would be a small piece of the puzzle.

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