Author Topic: NASA defends decision to restart RS-25 production, rejects alternatives  (Read 61408 times)

Online AnalogMan

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Is the justification document available on the Internet or L2?
Available on L2 in this L2 thread, post #30.

http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=34671.20

Public version can be found here (not OCR'd like the L2 version):
http://prod.nais.nasa.gov/eps/eps_data/168372-JA-001-001.pdf

Online Lars-J

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The other item is it is going to take 11 years to produce 6 engines. 2016 to 2027. There must be a lot of subcontractor parts suppliers requiring a long time to restart. And some suppliers that went out of business!

Even ignoring that, producing only 6 engines over *11* years... Madness. But that is AR's standard operating procedure these days - hand building a handful of engines every year.
« Last Edit: 01/05/2016 07:25 PM by Lars-J »

Offline montyrmanley

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11 years to produce 6 engines. Holy smokes! For comparison: it took about four years to build the Golden Gate Bridge. The Empire State Building was erected in just a bit over a year. The Hoover Dam was completed in about five years. During World War II, the United States built an aircraft carrier in about a year (and as a publicity stunt, built a liberty ship in five days). Now, I will grant that a rocket engine is a complex piece of machinery, but this is just outlandish. What are they doing that takes so blessedly long? Carving the entire engine out of a block of solid metal with a dental pick?

Offline Dante80

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To be fair here...the reason that ARJ is building 6 engines in 11 years is twofold.

1. Thats when NASA is going to need them.
2. They also have to work on 16 existing engines.

This is one of the reasons why the cost per engine gets so high btw. If NASA ordered 3 dozens, then the cost per engine would be a fraction of what is quoted now. I don't believe for a second that they need 11 years to produce them.

I personally think SLS will be canceled and NASA directed to work collaboratively with SpaceX via Space Act Agreement. It would be silly to continue pursuing this thing if something cheaper and more robust comes on line.

This is off topic. Lets concentrate on the subject at hand... :)
« Last Edit: 01/05/2016 08:14 PM by Dante80 »

Offline Zed_Noir

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It will be interesting if AR can do this without going over-budget and on schedule.

The recent RS-68A upgrade program should gave some insight.


Offline Chalmer

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Holy smokes .. 1.5 Billion for six engines .. !! or about 11 Falcon9+Dragon ISS resupply missions... Even for NASA this is crazy.
« Last Edit: 01/05/2016 09:26 PM by Chalmer »

Offline Chalmer

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It will be interesting if AR can do this without going over-budget and on schedule.

The recent RS-68A upgrade program should gave some insight.

If they cant re-build their own engine on an extremly generous budget like this and over an 11 year time line within budget and schedule then AR is utterly useless and deserve to be killed off, and forgotten in all enternity.

Online Chris Bergin

Great article!

A small glitch: The "SLS Forum Section" link actually points to the SpaceX forum section.

Thanks! Heck, even the news site CMS can't avoid SpaceX distractions! ;D Corrected.

Online Chris Bergin

PS There will be a follow up article with quotes we've got from Aerojet on how they will be reducing the costs per moving from RS-25D to RS-25E.

Offline montyrmanley

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It will be interesting if AR can do this without going over-budget and on schedule.

The recent RS-68A upgrade program should gave some insight.

If they cant re-build their own engine on an extremly generous budget like this and over an 11 year time line within budget and schedule then AR is utterly useless and deserve to be killed off, and forgotten in all enternity.

Actually, this seems mostly to be a NASA life-preserver for AR to keep them afloat so they can provide engines for the SLS. I think the award is so outrageous because it's meant to keep AR healthy enough to survive over the next decade. The per-engine and tooling costs are probably incidental to that larger goal. With ULA phasing out the Delta IV and Atlas V, AR isn't exactly looking at a deep roster of customers. This is speculation, obviously, but if NASA truly thinks that bringing a new vendor up to snuff on the RS-25 would be even more expensive, then this makes a certain amount of sense.


Offline shooter6947

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Or they could, you know, put it up for bids in an open competition as to who could design such an engine instead of shoveling out more corporate welfare.

Offline Dante80

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Or they could, you know, put it up for bids in an open competition as to who could design such an engine instead of shoveling out more corporate welfare.

As per NASA, this would introduce a lot of risk to the program. The only other interested entity in such a large hydrolox engine...was a random company that never made a rocket engine.
« Last Edit: 01/05/2016 10:43 PM by Dante80 »

Offline Zed_Noir

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Or they could, you know, put it up for bids in an open competition as to who could design such an engine instead of shoveling out more corporate welfare.

Problem is that the other current active US large liquid engine manufacturers is not interested in large HydeoLox engines. So basically asking AR how much they want.

Online Lars-J

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Or they could, you know, put it up for bids in an open competition as to who could design such an engine instead of shoveling out more corporate welfare.

Problem is that the other current active US large liquid engine manufacturers is not interested in large HydeoLox engines. So basically asking AR how much they want.

That is the risk you take when you design the vehicle around specific contractors instead of buying a capability.

Offline Dante80

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Well they wanted to keep the industrial complex (jobs) involved with the STS, so a clean sheet design was off the table for SLS.

I'm really curious btw on why did they choose to get rid of the RS-25E designation for the improved/expendable SLS variant. It seems like they want to call it simply RS-25 from now on.

Offline AncientU

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Well they wanted to keep the industrial complex (jobs) involved with the STS, so a clean sheet design was off the table for SLS.

I'm really curious btw on why did they choose to get rid of the RS-25E designation for the improved/expendable SLS variant. It seems like they want to call it simply RS-25 from now on.

Maybe they want to de-emphasize that they are actually redesigning a reusable engine to make it more expendable -- as stated in the recent glowing presser.  Maybe it will even be bio-degradable...

Good news is that Technology Development cannot go any lower. 
Welcome to the bottom AR and NASA.
« Last Edit: 01/05/2016 11:46 PM by AncientU »
"If we shared everything [we are working on] people would think we are insane!"
-- SpaceX friend of mlindner

Offline deltaV

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Creating the SLS program ~5 years ago was a big mistake. Even now with much of the development already paid for it may be a good idea to cancel SLS. However if you insist on building SLS, sole-sourcing the core engines (i.e. SSME) from AJR is probably the right call. In other words SLS with AJR SSMEs is bad but SLS with competed core engines would be worse.
« Last Edit: 01/06/2016 02:28 AM by deltaV »

Offline zodiacchris

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What I find disturbing is that the fifth set of engines are only required in 2027, so there will only be four SLS flying in the next 11 years?  :o
I was under the impression that they'd be aiming at a somewhat higher launch cadence.  :-\

Offline Todd Martin

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On the positive side, once the US Government pays to restart production of the RS25 as well as updating the design for modern fabrication methods and a fewer part count, it will be another option on the shelf for future launch vehicle designs.  A lot of people have said the RS25 is an amazing engine, it is just expensive.  Well, these investments will eventually make RS25 a lot cheaper to some future user if they step forward.

Also, consider the lonely fate of the J2X engine.  An updated RS25 makes a great 1st stage choice to accompany the J2X as a 2nd stage engine.

Right now, we have very few domestic competitors for launch vehicles.  If AR stops being an engine supplier for ULA, they may very well partner with a new company using these engines or get into the launch vehicle business themselves.


Offline sdsds

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PS There will be a follow up article with quotes we've got from Aerojet on how they will be reducing the costs per moving from RS-25D to RS-25E.
It's $1.5bn in total, of which $1.16bn for the production restart.

So $340m for 6 engines, or $57m per engine.

As the Shuttle program was winding down and alternatives like DIRECT were being discussed there was an estimate that about $750m was needed to modernize RS25 production. At the time the idea was that additional RS-25D engines would cost ~$72m each, but that could be cut to ~$39m each once modernization of production was complete. So without modernization a purchase in 2015 to take delivery of six engines in 2017 would have been $432; after modernization it would have been $234m. That was without production restart costs as the contract would have been let before the line was truly shuttered.

Apparently what AJR now proposes is ~$410m for restart; $750m in modernization; price drop to $57m per unit for small batches. The $39m per engine estimate mentioned above was for approximately 8 to 12 engines per year... which might have been affordable with DIRECT or AJAX. Apparently the need for those quantities isn't (yet) in the picture for SLS....
-- sdsds --

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