Author Topic: Air Force awards Rocket Propulsion agreement to Orbital ATK  (Read 10257 times)

Offline Rummy

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ATK Launch Systems Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Orbital ATK Inc., Magna, Utah, has been awarded a $46,968,005 other transaction agreement for the development of three rocket propulsion system prototypes for the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program. This agreement implements Section 1604 of the Fiscal Year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act, which requires the development of a next-generation rocket propulsion system that will transition away from the use of the Russian-supplied RD-180 engine to a domestic alternative for National Security Space launches. An other transaction agreement was used in lieu of a standard procurement contract in order to leverage on-going investment by industry in rocket propulsion systems. This other transaction agreement requires shared cost investment with ATK Launch Systems Inc. for the development of prototypes of the GEM 63XL strap-on solid rocket motor, the Common Booster Segment (CBS) solid rocket motor, and an Extendable Nozzle for Blue Originís BE-3U upper stage engine. These rocket propulsion systems are intended for use on an Orbital ATK next generation launch vehicle.  The GEM 63XL strap-on solid rocket motor is also intended for use on United Launch Allianceís Vulcan launch vehicle.  The locations of performance are Magna, Utah; Iuka, Mississippi; Chandler, Arizona; and Los Angeles Air Force Base, California. The work is expected to be completed no later than Dec. 30, 2019.  Air Force fiscal 2015 research, development, test and evaluation funds in the amount of $46,968,005 are being obligated at the time of award.  ATK Launch Systems Inc. is contributing $31,130,360 at the time of award.  The total potential government investment, including all options, is $180,238,059.  The total potential investment by ATK Launch Systems Inc., including all options, is $124,830,693. This award is the result of a competitive acquisition with multiple offers received. The Launch Systems Enterprise Directorate, Space and Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles Air Force Base, California is the contracting activity (FA8811-16-9-0002).

Offline yg1968

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Offline rayleighscatter

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The USAF just uncancelled Ares I.....

Offline yg1968

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Air Force would look really bad investing all of this money in a next generation Antares if OrbitalATK doesn't win a CRS2 contract. My guess is that OrbitalATK has won a CRS2 contract and that it will be announced soon (possibly tomorrow).
« Last Edit: 01/13/2016 11:52 PM by yg1968 »

Offline rayleighscatter

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Not necessarily, OA has two strong suits. They can take components from separate items and combine them in a new project. They can also sit on a project for a while so long as it's being used elsewhere.

Minotaur for instance doesn't launch very often but OA can manage those launches fine because they still support that same equipment through other (ICBM mostly) projects.

CBS is currently ongoing with NASA/SLS. Gem 63 is ongoing with ULA (Atlas/Vulcan), and the BE3 sourced from an ongoing project with Blue. Even if CRS falls through OA can mostly sit on this tech and come back to it again in 5-6 years for a launch if need be. No institutional base required to be maintained for it at the moment.

Offline ChrisWilson68

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Air Force would look really bad investing all of this money in a next generation Antares if OrbitalATK doesn't win a CRS2 contract. My guess is that OrbitalATK has won a CRS2 contract and that it will be announced soon (possibly tomorrow).

The Air Force people making this contracting decision would have no inside information about who won CRS-2.  And they had to have begun negotiations with OrbitalATK before the CRS-2 decision was even made.  I don't think there's any linkage.

The Air Force was told by Congress to spend this money on engine development, so they asked for proposals and they seem to have chosen to spread the money out among a number of different companies.  They said they're still in negotiations with some of them and more awards are still to be announced.

I think all it took to get one of these awards was a willingness on the part of the company to invest a significant amount of private capital to share the costs of development of an engine.

Offline yg1968

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There is a requirement that OrbitalATK fund at least a third of its engine development itself. So it seems like a risky proposition for OrbitalATK to invest millions of dollars into a rocket without having any clients. The timing is also oddly convenient. For CCtCap, Congress was apparently briefed on it prior to the awards being announced. Obviously, the Air Force has no say in which company gets a CRS2 award but I imagine that NASA is allowed to brief other agencies or departments once it has made its decision internally.

The joint explanatory statement to the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act mentions that the DOD should try to coordinate its engine program with NASA. NASA has no need for new engines but it has a need for LVs for commercial crew and cargo. So there may have been some kind of coordination between NASA and the Air Force.

Quote
The Secretary should coordinate with the Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, to the extent practicable, to ensure that the rocket propulsion system developed under subsection meets objectives that are common to both the national security space community and the civil space program of the United States.

See page 261:
http://armedservices.house.gov/index.cfm/files/serve?File_id=78ED7A79-9066-43FD-AA75-1D8F14B4B4A2
« Last Edit: 01/14/2016 01:21 AM by yg1968 »

Offline Rummy

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There is a requirement that OrbitalATK fund at least a third of its engine development itself. So it seems like a risky proposition for OrbitalATK to invest millions of dollars into a rocket without having any clients. The timing is also oddly convenient. For CCtCap, Congress was apparently briefed on it prior to the awards being announced. Obviously, the Air Force has no say in which company gets a CRS2 award but I imagine that NASA is allowed to brief other agencies or departments once it has made its decision internally.

The joint explanatory statement to the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act mentions that the DOD should try to coordinate its engine program with NASA. NASA has no need for new engines but it has a need for LVs for commercial crew and cargo. So there may have been some kind of coordination between NASA and the Air Force.

Quote
The Secretary should coordinate with the Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, to the extent practicable, to ensure that the rocket propulsion system developed under subsection meets objectives that are common to both the national security space community and the civil space program of the United States.

See page 261:
http://armedservices.house.gov/index.cfm/files/serve?File_id=78ED7A79-9066-43FD-AA75-1D8F14B4B4A2

Very, very unlikely.

Offline yg1968

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What makes you say that?

Just to be clear, I meant coordination within the last few days not throughout the entire process. But I admit that it's a bit of a guess on my part. But I just find it hard to believe that ATK would make a huge investment without knowing if it has any potential clients for its investment. It's also a gamble for the Air Force to invest millions into a rocket if it has no potential client.

In any event, I expect ATK to win a CRS2 award. From a political perspective, abandonning OrbitalATK and Wallops would be a huge blow to the company and that facility. I can't see NASA abandonning OrbitalATK for a new company unlesss their prices are completely out of whack with other companies (which seems unlikely).
« Last Edit: 01/14/2016 01:58 AM by yg1968 »

Offline Oli

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Quote
This other transaction agreement requires shared cost investment with ATK Launch Systems Inc. for the development of prototypes of the GEM 63XL strap-on solid rocket motor, the Common Booster Segment (CBS) solid rocket motor, and an Extendable Nozzle for Blue Originís BE-3U upper stage engine. These rocket propulsion systems are intended for use on an Orbital ATK next generation launch vehicle.  The GEM 63XL strap-on solid rocket motor is also intended for use on United Launch Allianceís Vulcan launch vehicle.

Could be in direct competition to Blue Origin's hypothetical orbital rocket. Bezos surely doesn't mind selling his engines to competitors :).

Online TrevorMonty

This new LV is looking a lot like the Liberty with US government funding a lot if the development. The Common Core Booster will mostly likely be derived from SLS SRBs which NASA has a paid most of R&D for. OrbitalATK only needs fund a US which they may jointly do with Blue and pad to support the new LV.




Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Air Force awards Rocket Propulsion agreement to Orbital ATK
« Reply #11 on: 01/14/2016 03:16 AM »
Quote
This other transaction agreement requires shared cost investment with ATK Launch Systems Inc. for the development of prototypes of the GEM 63XL strap-on solid rocket motor, the Common Booster Segment (CBS) solid rocket motor, and an Extendable Nozzle for Blue Originís BE-3U upper stage engine. These rocket propulsion systems are intended for use on an Orbital ATK next generation launch vehicle.  The GEM 63XL strap-on solid rocket motor is also intended for use on United Launch Allianceís Vulcan launch vehicle.

Could be in direct competition to Blue Origin's hypothetical orbital rocket. Bezos surely doesn't mind selling his engines to competitors :).
...probably because Blue Origin is a lot slower than SpaceX, and when Blue Origin DO intend to enter the market, they'd have a reusable RTLS/barging first stage right from the get-go, so it's very unlikely that anyone who'd buy engines from them would be able to compete on cost.

...milk the expendable launch providers while you can, then enter the market with a reusable rocket.
Chris  Whoever loves correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

To the maximum extent practicable, the Federal Government shall plan missions to accommodate the space transportation services capabilities of United States commercial providers. US law http://goo.gl/YZYNt0

Offline Steven Pietrobon

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Re: Air Force awards Rocket Propulsion agreement to Orbital ATK
« Reply #12 on: 01/14/2016 03:18 AM »
Any body know what the Common Booster Segment (CBS) solid rocket motor is?
Akin's Laws of Spacecraft Design #1:  Engineering is done with numbers.  Analysis without numbers is only an opinion.

Offline arachnitect

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Re: Air Force awards Rocket Propulsion agreement to Orbital ATK
« Reply #13 on: 01/14/2016 03:21 AM »
What makes you say that?

Just to be clear, I meant coordination within the last few days not throughout the entire process. But I admit that it's a bit of a guess on my part. But I just find it hard to believe that ATK would make a huge investment without knowing if it has any potential clients for its investment. It's also a gamble for the Air Force to invest millions into a rocket if it has no potential client.

In any event, I expect ATK to win a CRS2 award. From a political perspective, abandonning OrbitalATK and Wallops would be a huge blow to the company and that facility. I can't see NASA abandonning OrbitalATK for a new company unlesss their prices are completely out of whack with other companies (which seems unlikely).

I think the trick here is that all this work is applicable to other OrbitalATK priorities. For example it's a little weird that USAF is funding GEM-63XL work since OrbATK was already doing that for Atlas/Vulcan. As for the big solid motor segments, I think OrbATK is committed to the big solids business and any money coming in helps while they hope for big projects like SLS booster evolution, ICBM replacement, ABM boosters, etc.

The BE-3 nozzle extension is really interesting, but it makes sense for a composites and solids company like OrbATK to get into that. Even if they don't use BE-3U on their own rocket, other companies might be interested in buying such a product from them. Getting a bigger engine bell into a smaller form factor could be useful to a lot of projects out there right now. I also have a pet theory that OrbATK is tired of RL-10 ruling the US upperstage market and would delight in forcing AJR out of that business too.

None of this stuff immediately benefits their presumptive CRS-II bid, so I think the timing is coincidental. If anything, I would say this work is inversely correlated with CRS-II success, since CRS keeps them locked to Wallops (no big solids allowed, no DOD payloads), needs continuity, and is free to use Russian engines. If they lose out on CRS-II, they've got a much bigger incentive to start over and try breaking into the EELV market.

Online Kryten

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Re: Air Force awards Rocket Propulsion agreement to Orbital ATK
« Reply #14 on: 01/14/2016 03:30 AM »
Mike Gruss just tweeted a statement (attached) from Rob Meyerson confirming that the Be-3U work in this contract is for the OrbATK next-gen vehicle.
« Last Edit: 01/14/2016 03:31 AM by Kryten »

Online TrevorMonty

Mike Gruss just tweeted a statement (attached) from Rob Meyerson confirming that the Be-3U work in this contract is for the OrbATK next-gen vehicle.
If Blue is supplying the engine why not the whole upper stage.  OrbitalATK have shown with Antares booster they will buy stages from other companies.  LOX/LH stages are not easy to develop and I doubt OA has much expertise in this area.

Offline J-V

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Re: Air Force awards Rocket Propulsion agreement to Orbital ATK
« Reply #16 on: 01/14/2016 09:56 AM »
Mike Gruss just tweeted a statement (attached) from Rob Meyerson confirming that the Be-3U work in this contract is for the OrbATK next-gen vehicle.
If Blue is supplying the engine why not the whole upper stage.  OrbitalATK have shown with Antares booster they will buy stages from other companies.  LOX/LH stages are not easy to develop and I doubt OA has much expertise in this area.

"upper stage solution" sounds like an entire stage to me. Or did I miss where they said they will provide only the engine?

Online TrevorMonty

Mike Gruss just tweeted a statement (attached) from Rob Meyerson confirming that the Be-3U work in this contract is for the OrbATK next-gen vehicle.
If Blue is supplying the engine why not the whole upper stage.  OrbitalATK have shown with Antares booster they will buy stages from other companies.  LOX/LH stages are not easy to develop and I doubt OA has much expertise in this area.

"upper stage solution" sounds like an entire stage to me. Or did I miss where they said they will provide only the engine?
ATK had planned to use Antares 5 US for Liberty LV. A Blue US is likely to be considerably cheaper especially if Blue use same US themselves.

http://spacenews.com/atk-pitches-liberty-rocket-commercial-crew-program/

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Air Force awards Rocket Propulsion agreement to Orbital ATK
« Reply #18 on: 01/14/2016 12:21 PM »
So.. In 4-5 years we might have:
Delta IV
Atlas V
beginnings of Vulcan(?)
Falcon 9/H
bfr/BFS (?)
Antares
zombie Liberty (?)
Blue Origin's launch vehicle (?)

There's going to have to be some consolidation here.
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Offline ChrisWilson68

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Re: Air Force awards Rocket Propulsion agreement to Orbital ATK
« Reply #19 on: 01/14/2016 01:46 PM »
Mike Gruss just tweeted a statement (attached) from Rob Meyerson confirming that the Be-3U work in this contract is for the OrbATK next-gen vehicle.
If Blue is supplying the engine why not the whole upper stage.  OrbitalATK have shown with Antares booster they will buy stages from other companies.  LOX/LH stages are not easy to develop and I doubt OA has much expertise in this area.

"upper stage solution" sounds like an entire stage to me. Or did I miss where they said they will provide only the engine?

Except that the term "upper stage solution" is used to describe something labeled "BE-3U".  And then later they say BE-3U is an engine.  So, they are saying their BE-3U is an upper stage solution.  That says to me that by "upper stage solution" they mean they are providing an upper stage propulsion solution, not an upper stage.  Otherwise, why not just say they are providing an upper stage?

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