Author Topic: USAF RFP for new EELV Launch Service Agreements (2017-10-05)  (Read 16417 times)

Online gongora

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I'm a bit surprised this RFP was released before the Defense spending bill is finalized, you'd think they wouldn't do this unless they're sure of getting the funding?

FA8811-17-9-0001; Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) Launch Service Agreements (LSA) Request for Proposals (RFP)
« Last Edit: 10/06/2017 07:43 PM by gongora »

Offline zubenelgenubi

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I'm a bit surprised this RFP was released before the Defense spending bill is finalized, you'd think they wouldn't do this unless they're sure of getting the funding?
Would not the current Continuing Resolution provide sufficient authority?
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Online gongora

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I'm a bit surprised this RFP was released before the Defense spending bill is finalized, you'd think they wouldn't do this unless they're sure of getting the funding?
Would not the current Continuing Resolution provide sufficient authority?

Possibly to get the process started, but if the final Defense spending bill prohibits funding for it (like the House version of the bill currently does) then they couldn't even award the contracts.

Online russianhalo117

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It's appears Rob a draft RFP and not the final RFP.

Online gongora

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It's appears Rob a draft RFP and not the final RFP.

It is the final RFP.

Offline rocketmantitan

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Gotta love the Air Force using nautical miles in the requirements documents!  Haven't changed in 20 years.   Do any of their industrial base or their Aerospace Corporation technical arm even use those units anymore?  Probably not.  Must be a bit of a pain for industry to rewrite their GNC performance analyses to convert back to nautical miles in order to submit their proposal.

Offline gosnold

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Some interestings tidbits from the RFP:
Quote
Per national policy, the Air Force intends to ensure that there are two reliable sources for all national
security launches

Quote
Offerors may submit no more than two proposals per company. Each proposal shall only include one
proposed EELV Launch System prototype. The prototype can be developed using an incremental
approach, such as achieving the launch capability for Payload Categories A and B prior to achieving
launch capability for Payload Category C. The Government will award a maximum of one agreement
for one EELV Launch System prototype per company
. The Government plans to award a portfolio of
at least three agreements, but reserves the right to award any number of agreements, including none

Quote
3.1.2 Section II: Factor 1 EELV Approach
The Offeror shall describe its approach to develop and qualify a launch system that meets EELV
launch service requirements. The SPRD and SIS are listed in Annex C, Attachment 4. At a minimum,
the Offeror shall address the following topics:
1. The ability to meet all EELV reference orbits defined in Table 10 at the orbital insertion
accuracy required in SPRD 3.2.4
2. The ability to support up to five NSS launches per year
3. The ability of the launch system to meet the payload orientation requirement in SPRD 3.2.7
4. The ability of the launch system to meet the basing requirement in SPRD 3.2.11
5. The ability of the launch system to meet the EELV mated payload protection requirement in
SPRD 3.3.2
6. The ability of the launch system to meet the payload envelope requirement in SIS 3.1.3
7. The proposed mission assurance approach to ensure low risk and high confidence in launching
NSS missions
8. The ability to slow or surge production to accommodate uncertain NSS, commercial, and civil
launch forecasts

So that means SpaceX can get funding for either a Falcon Heavy capable of inserting 7t direct into GEO and with vertical integration, or BFR.

Quote
3.1.6.2 Non-Exclusivity of Rocket Propulsion System (RPS) Sales
The Offeror shall provide a signed letter acknowledging understanding of the FY15 NDAA Section
1604 (E) requirement that any RPSs developed under this LSA will be available for purchase by all
space launch providers of the United States. The implementation of this requirement is addressed in
Article XIX of the Model Agreement (Annex C). If the Offeror is not proposing to develop any
RPSs under this LSA, the Offeror shall provide a letter with that statement.
3.1.6.3 RPS Developed By Not Later Than 2019
The Offeror shall provide a signed letter stating whether or not the RPS(s) developed under this LSA
are scheduled to complete development by 31 December 2019. The letter shall include a reference to
the related tasks in the schedule (Section 3.1.3.2).

Quote
The Government will evaluate the Offeror’s schedule to determine the risk of delayed development
for:
1. Launch system(s) capable of launching Category A and Category B payloads by 1 October
2021 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station/Kennedy Space Center or Vandenberg Air
Force Base

2. Launch system(s) capable of launching Category A and Category B payloads from Vandenberg
Air Force Base by 1 October 2024
3. Launch system(s) capable of launching Category C payloads by 1 October 2024 from
Vandenberg Air Force Base

Also some interesting tables :



Apparently there's an Overhead Persistent Infrared program that's separate from SBIRS, that's news.

And finally the full desired schedule

That is very aggressive.
« Last Edit: 10/08/2017 07:48 PM by gosnold »

Offline Mike Jones

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Deadline for submitting bids is on November 20th.

One can expect at least 4 bidders :
- ULA with Vulcan
- Spacex with BFR and/or Falcon Heavy
- Orbital ATK with NGL
- Blue Origin with New Glenn
 +maybe  a fifth bidder ? Aerojet Rocketdyne with a launcher based on AR1 and RL-10 with solid boosters ?

Offline yg1968

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« Last Edit: 10/09/2017 01:17 AM by yg1968 »

Offline woods170

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Gotta love the Air Force using nautical miles in the requirements documents!  Haven't changed in 20 years.   Do any of their industrial base or their Aerospace Corporation technical arm even use those units anymore?  Probably not.  Must be a bit of a pain for industry to rewrite their GNC performance analyses to convert back to nautical miles in order to submit their proposal.
Hard to believe that the U.S. adopted the metric system in 1866.  Still, nautical miles remain widely used in aeronautics and sailing in the U.S..

 - Ed Kyle
The metric system was adopted, in theory. In practice: not by a long shot.

Offline speedevil

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Am I reading this correctly, in that it is only the rocket engines that, if developed under this agreement must be shared tech. If the rocket engine development is complete by 2019, as at least seems plausible, for some of the vendors, they can use the funding under this agreement to develop the rest of the rocket system, and not need to share technology at a 'commercially reasonable price' with other companies?

Offline rockets4life97

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Has anyone done an analysis of whether the main contenders (Vulcan, New Glenn, BFR) as currently designed can meet the payloads required for each reference orbit?

Online gongora

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Has anyone done an analysis of whether the main contenders (Vulcan, New Glenn, BFR) as currently designed can meet the payloads required for each reference orbit?

I don't think I'd call BFR a main contender for this, the Falcon family would be more likely.  You're also leaving off the O/ATK proposal.

Offline rockets4life97

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I don't think I'd call BFR a main contender for this, the Falcon family would be more likely.

I suppose that depends on how seriously you take Elon Musk's claim to transition in the early 2020s away from the Falcon 9/FH to BFR. It doesn't look like SpaceX needs much development money for Falcon 9/FH.

Online gongora

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I don't think I'd call BFR a main contender for this, the Falcon family would be more likely.

I suppose that depends on how seriously you take Elon Musk's claim to transition in the early 2020s away from the Falcon 9/FH to BFR. It doesn't look like SpaceX needs much development money for Falcon 9/FH.

I don't think anyone is going to count on SpaceX meeting that schedule for BFR flights, and you may be underestimating the amount left to spend on development of vehicles and facilities for the Falcon line to fully meet the DoD requirements.

Online meberbs

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Gotta love the Air Force using nautical miles in the requirements documents!  Haven't changed in 20 years.   Do any of their industrial base or their Aerospace Corporation technical arm even use those units anymore?  Probably not.  Must be a bit of a pain for industry to rewrite their GNC performance analyses to convert back to nautical miles in order to submit their proposal.
As long as they aren't mixing nautical miles with data miles (a nautical mile rounded to the nearest 1000 ft) it is an improvement from some things I have seen. I have seen a system that at one point had decided that nautical miles and data miles were close enough to be considered the same thing. This was no longer the case, but some user displays still gave numbers in data miles, but labeled nautical miles. Even on the same screen a display could label everything as nautical miles, but half of the numbers were really data miles. Even presentations about the system would sometimes do the same thing.

Online envy887

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I don't think I'd call BFR a main contender for this, the Falcon family would be more likely.

I suppose that depends on how seriously you take Elon Musk's claim to transition in the early 2020s away from the Falcon 9/FH to BFR. It doesn't look like SpaceX needs much development money for Falcon 9/FH.

I don't think anyone is going to count on SpaceX meeting that schedule for BFR flights, and you may be underestimating the amount left to spend on development of vehicles and facilities for the Falcon line to fully meet the DoD requirements.

Specifically, SpaceX needs at least Falcon Heavy flying, vertical integration facilities, a longer fairing, and a heavier PAF.

Offline Rik ISS-fan

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I think there are four companies that can participate in this competition.
BlueOrigin New Glenn (or ...)
Orbital-ATK NGL (If Castor 300; ...600 & ...1200 development is funded)
SpaceX Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy
ULA Delta IV H and Vulcan Centaur (Atlas V is backup)

Could NGL and Vulcan (BE-4 & AR1) use the same upper-stage?

Online TrevorMonty

Here are those reference payloads in metric units.

The "C" Category missions, especially "GEO2",  are
the "Heavy" missions.  Everything else appears to
be "Medium" type. 

EELV REFERENCE ORBITS

ORBIT                                   MASS      CATEGORY
-----------------------------------------------------------
LEO      926 km x 63.4 deg              6,804 kg    A&B
Polar 1  833 km x 98.2 deg              7,030 kg    A&B
Polar 2  833 km x 98.2 deg             17,010 kg    C
MEO 1    18,177 km x 50 deg             5,330 kg    A&B
MTO 1    1,000 x 20,368 km x 55 deg     4,082 kg    A&B
MEO 2    20,368 km x 55 deg             4,082 kg    A&B
MTO 2    1,000 x 20,368 km x 55 deg     5,080 kg    A&B
GTO      185 x 35,786 km x 27 deg       8,165 kg    A&B
Molniya  1,204 x 39,170 km x 63.4 deg   5,216 kg    A&B
GEO 1    35,786 km x 0 deg              2,268 kg    A&B
GEO 2    35,786 km x 0 deg              6,577 kg    C
---------------------------------------------------------
Categories
A:  4 meter diameter PLF
B:  5 meter diameter PLF
C:  5 meter diameter Extended PLF

I'm going to modify my original statement about Heavy versus Medium type missions.  The "MEO 1" and "MEO 2" look like they might also fit in to the "Heavy" category, or what used to be "Heavy".  These payloads have increased from today's 1.6-ish tonnes to more than 5.3 tonnes - quite a jump. 

My assessment is that Falcon 9, NGL 500, and the lower-end Vulcan-Centaur variants can handle the "Medium" missions.  (Some of the F9 first stages could be recovered, but probably not all).  The "Heavy" missions require Falcon Heavy Recoverable or possibly Falcon 9 expendable, NGL 500XL, or Vulcan with "Enhanced" Centaur.  The crossover point between Falcon 9 expendable and Falcon Heavy Recoverable is uncertain to me.

FWIW, two-stage New Glenn looks capable of handling any of these missions, Medium or Heavy, but that assumes a long-coast to third restart capability is available.

 - Ed Kyle
Blue's NG would most likely require 3rd stage for GEO 2 mission. At 13t to GTO it only has 6t of fuel to deliver 7t payload plus stage dry mass to GEO.

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Offline soltasto

Blue's NG would most likely require 3rd stage for GEO 2 mission. At 13t to GTO it only has 6t of fuel to deliver 7t payload plus stage dry mass to GEO.
After looking at my model in detail, I agree.  New Glenn would need a third stage for GEO and for the two MEO missions.

 - Ed Kyle

New Glenn would also need a launch site for the polar orbit missions. Are there plans for a west coast launch site for New Glenn? Even Orbital has plans to take over Vandenberg SLC-2 (after the last 2018 Delta II mission) for NGL.

May the initial plan be launching from the cape at the highest azimuth to the north and then performing a (quite expensive) orbit inclination change with the third stage?

Online gongora

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New Glenn would also need a launch site for the polar orbit missions. Are there plans for a west coast launch site for New Glenn? Even Orbital has plans to take over Vandenberg SLC-2 (after the last 2018 Delta II mission) for NGL.

May the initial plan be launching from the cape at the highest azimuth to the north and then performing a (quite expensive) orbit inclination change with the third stage?

Vandenberg flights aren't required until a few years into the contract.  Whoever wins will have time to set up a site.

Offline Mike Jones

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So how many bids can we expect on November 20th?
I hope  that every established players and new entrants submit their own bids as Prime contractor to maximize competition:
- ULA with Vulcan centaur (with BE-4 a priori) and then Vulcan ACES (which upper stage engine supplier?)
- SpaceX with Falcon Heavy and then BFR
- Orbital ATK (soon Northrop Grumman) with NGL 500 and then NGL500XL. Who will be their upper stage engine supplier ?
- Blue Origin with new Glenn (2-stage version) and then New Glenn (3-stage)
- Aerojet Rocketdyne with an "Atlas VI" based on AR-1 & RL-10 provided that they should not be part of ULA tea for Vulcan.  But who will be their partner for structures and integration ?

Any ideas ?

Online vaporcobra

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So how many bids can we expect on November 20th?
I hope  that every established players and new entrants submit their own bids as Prime contractor to maximize competition:
- ULA with Vulcan centaur (with BE-4 a priori) and then Vulcan ACES (which upper stage engine supplier?)
- SpaceX with Falcon Heavy and then BFR
- Orbital ATK (soon Northrop Grumman) with NGL 500 and then NGL500XL. Who will be their upper stage engine supplier ?
- Blue Origin with new Glenn (2-stage version) and then New Glenn (3-stage)
- Aerojet Rocketdyne with an "Atlas VI" based on AR-1 & RL-10 provided that they should not be part of ULA tea for Vulcan.  But who will be their partner for structures and integration ?

Any ideas ?

That's a good summary of the field. I think payload requirements in the RFP will push out OATK's NGL 500 and generally point towards SHLV. I would expect Vulcan, BFR/FH, and New Glenn to all receive funds for prototype dev.

I also fully expect the AF to lean towards vehicles that will use propulsion systems they have already partially funded.

Online gongora

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A company can submit up to two proposals, but only one family of vehicles can get chosen according to the documents.  That would mean SpaceX could get funding for either Falcon or BFR family, not both.  I assume the Air Force would lean towards the one that actually exists already.

Online vaporcobra

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A company can submit up to two proposals, but only one family of vehicles can get chosen according to the documents.  That would mean SpaceX could get funding for either Falcon or BFR family, not both.  I assume the Air Force would lean towards the one that actually exists already.

A fair assumption, no doubt.

I'm torn; BFR could be a boon to all  forms of space access, including military space needs. The AF Space Command is downright enamored with reusable rockets at the moment, and SpaceX will almost certainly submit proposals for both the Falcon family and BFR. FH is definitely the obvious choice given its maturity, but it doesn't look like FH can accomplish all the example missions while recovering all three cores.

I'm sure SpaceX is still somewhat open to expendable missions if there is no alternative, but not 100% sure when we're talking about the '20s. I'd love to see some official numbers on payloads with an expendable center core, but there's also the reality that SpaceX would likely rather recover center cores over side cores.

Offline woods170

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Some interestings tidbits from the RFP:

Quote
3.1.2 Section II: Factor 1 EELV Approach
The Offeror shall describe its approach to develop and qualify a launch system that meets EELV
launch service requirements. The SPRD and SIS are listed in Annex C, Attachment 4. At a minimum,
the Offeror shall address the following topics:
1. The ability to meet all EELV reference orbits defined in Table 10 at the orbital insertion
accuracy required in SPRD 3.2.4
<snip>

I can see where that "all EELV reference orbits" came from. It is a requirement to prevent any further "cherry-picking" of NSS missions, such as SpaceX has been doing ever since Falcon 9 became certified for NSS missions.
« Last Edit: 10/24/2017 06:22 AM by woods170 »

Offline Jim

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The AF Space Command is downright enamored with reusable rockets at the moment,


not really

Offline DreamyPickle

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The requirement to also launch "Category C" payloads is potentially very troublesome, but it does make sense. If you're going to fund multiple systems for "assured access to space" you also want to do this for the most expensive missions. It does allow an "incremental approach" of supporting category A/B years before category C so it's not clear it would completely exclude the F9 if applied retroactively because SpaceX has always claimed the Heavy is launching really soon.

This requirement also explains why the Orbital-ATK NGL claims to support direct GEO insertion, they would otherwise be disqualified.

While the Falcon Heavy can already fill all the top requirements it would make sense for SpaceX to propose the BFR and get government funding for it. It almost feels like cheating but seems like it would be allowed.
* They already received money for Raptor so they have a "foot in the door".
* The requirement for direct GEO insertion would probably be met through fuel transfer, developed on DoD money.
* Flights under this agreement begin in 2022 so this actually meshes quite nicely with Elon's statement that the Falcon will be retired.

There is also a recent SpaceNews article with some interesting quotes from the Air Force. It seems that the infamous "Section 1615" could completely block this program in favor of just funding the Aerojet AR1 to replace RD-180. Is this interpretation accurate?
« Last Edit: 11/03/2017 10:54 PM by DreamyPickle »

Online gongora

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If I'm reading the conference report correctly this RFP just died. (Can't copy/paste well on phone, will post the text later tonight if someone else doesn't get to it first.)

Offline Mike Jones

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Really ? can the US Air Force withdraw this RFP so late in the bidding process ? Deadline is in 10 days ...

Online gongora

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Conference Committee Text can be found here

The bill does require a report to be submitted to Congress on the best (most cost effective) way to move forward over the next 5 years, 10 years, and life of the program, so something like this process could possibly still occur after consultations with Congress.

Online vaporcobra

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If I'm reading the conference report correctly this RFP just died. (Can't copy/paste well on phone, will post the text later tonight if someone else doesn't get to it first.)

Looks like it, sadly.

Quote
The amendment would terminate the authority to
develop a domestic rocket propulsion system and to develop the
necessary interfaces of a domestic rocket propulsion system once
the Secretary of the Air Force certifies to the congressional
defense committees that a successful full-scale test of a
domestic rocket engine has occurred.

Not completely clear, but this seems to indicate that Blue's successful test firing would mean that the AF can no longer be involved in RPS development after it's verified. Anyway draw a different conclusion?

Offline rockets4life97

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Is this another way of saying that Congress doesn't want to pay for engine/rocket development for a new EELV when the commercial market has already produced a new option?

Online AncientU

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...

FWIW, two-stage New Glenn looks capable of handling any of these missions, Medium or Heavy, but that assumes a long-coast to third restart capability is available.

 - Ed Kyle

Difficulty would be retiring the development risk and being ready in time -- promising five flights in each of 2020 and 2021 might be a hard sell before a competitor has a qualified engine or ever conducted an orbital launch.  Both Blue and AJR suffer this situation.  Recall that another competitor, with both an engine and a bit of orbital launch experience, was shut out of previous launches. 
« Last Edit: 11/10/2017 01:46 PM by AncientU »
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Offline gosnold

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Quote
The amendment would terminate the authority to
develop a domestic rocket propulsion system and to develop the
necessary interfaces of a domestic rocket propulsion system once
the Secretary of the Air Force certifies to the congressional
defense committees that a successful full-scale test of a
domestic rocket engine has occurred.

This seems to be only about the engine, the RFP is for a launch system so should still stand. Also since Merlin is domestic, wouldn't that terminate the authority right now?

Online gongora

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Quote
The amendment would terminate the authority to
develop a domestic rocket propulsion system and to develop the
necessary interfaces of a domestic rocket propulsion system once
the Secretary of the Air Force certifies to the congressional
defense committees that a successful full-scale test of a
domestic rocket engine has occurred.

This seems to be only about the engine, the RFP is for a launch system so should still stand. Also since Merlin is domestic, wouldn't that terminate the authority right now?

The legislation doesn't provide funding for the program described in the RFP.  It explicitly says that spending money on the program described in the RFP is not allowed in FY18.  The engine they're talking about is the RD-180 replacement.  Merlin is not the RD-180 replacement.

Online AncientU

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Quote
The amendment would terminate the authority to
develop a domestic rocket propulsion system and to develop the
necessary interfaces of a domestic rocket propulsion system once
the Secretary of the Air Force certifies to the congressional
defense committees that a successful full-scale test of a
domestic rocket engine has occurred.

This seems to be only about the engine, the RFP is for a launch system so should still stand. Also since Merlin is domestic, wouldn't that terminate the authority right now?

The legislation doesn't provide funding for the program described in the RFP.  It explicitly says that spending money on the program described in the RFP is not allowed in FY18.  The engine they're talking about is the RD-180 replacement.  Merlin is not the RD-180 replacement.

This entire discussion -- attempting to parse Congressional language -- could easily be solved if Congress just said, "Send* this bag of money to Aerojet and ULA."  End of discussion; problem solved.

*But that would be illegal...
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Offline FinalFrontier

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If I read this correctly, no more money for BE4 development?

Doesn't seem like that would be a problem however, because BE4 is pretty far along anyway. As far as it applies to the Vulcan LV I supposed BO and ULA would have to work out who pays for development costs. But I don't think it would kill the engine.

What does this do to the AJ proposal for vulcan though? Does it make it more or less likely?
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Online gongora

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If I read this correctly, no more money for BE4 development?

Doesn't seem like that would be a problem however, because BE4 is pretty far along anyway. As far as it applies to the Vulcan LV I supposed BO and ULA would have to work out who pays for development costs. But I don't think it would kill the engine.

What does this do to the AJ proposal for vulcan though? Does it make it more or less likely?

So the way I'm reading this, Congress is authorizing money for U.S. industry to develop a replacement for RD-180.  Multiple efforts can be funded until one is finished, but once one of them passes a full scale (and I assume that means full power/full duration of a flight-like engine/motor) test the Air Force will not be able to obligate additional funding to the other competitors.  It will probably be a little while before someone (most likely Blue Origin) does the full scale test, and a while after that before the Secretary of the Air Force certifies to Congress that the test has been completed, so this isn't really instant death for the AJR and O/ATK first stage propulsion programs.

The bill authorizes spending on the interface of the engine to a first stage (and does not say it has to be an existing first stage), so that would cover a lot of plumbing and thrust structure work at the back end of a rocket.  It doesn't allow Air Force spending for the rest of the rocket (tanks, upper stage, avionics, etc.) except...

It still allows the Air Force to spend money to
Quote
"(C) develop capabilities necessary to enable existing or planned commercially available spacelaunch vehicles or infrastructure that are primarily for national security space missions to meet the assured access to space requirements pursuant to section 2273 of title 10, United States Code."
(stuff like long coast, vertical integration, launch pads at both CC and Vandenberg, large fairings, etc.)

Offline gosnold

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It still allows the Air Force to spend money to
Quote
"(C) develop capabilities necessary to enable existing or planned commercially available spacelaunch vehicles or infrastructure that are primarily for national security space missions to meet the assured access to space requirements pursuant to section 2273 of title 10, United States Code."
(stuff like long coast, vertical integration, launch pads at both CC and Vandenberg, large fairings, etc.)

That seems to preclude funding any rocket except ULA's, because they are not primarily for NSS. Vandenberg pads and vertical integration facilities would still be in scope though.

Offline Mike Jones

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Proposals are due on Monday. The outcome is pretty uncertain at this stage on the funding side and for the selection of Primes by USAF: SpaceX vs ULA (which main engine supplier ?) vs Orbital ATK (which upper stage supplier ?) vs Blue Origin.

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Both houses of Congress have now passed the 2018 NDAA (which sets policy but they still need to pass a separate bill to actually fund it).  The NDAA has language that pretty much prohibits awarding contracts for this RFP.

Offline Mike Jones

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When is this last bill supposed to be passed ? Why is this RFP not cancelled or postponed in such context where no funding would be appropriated for launch vehicle development ?
« Last Edit: 11/16/2017 08:10 PM by Mike Jones »

Offline bodhiandphysics

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When is this last bill supposed to be passed ? Why is this RFP not cancelled or postponed in such context where no funding would be appropriated for launch vehicle development ?

Just a guesss... it's not that the NDAA doesn't appropriate funds for the RFP. Rather, it bans the use of discretionary funds appropriated as part of a specific program, the EELV program, except for certain specified ways. Moreover, it only does so for fiscal year 2018.  What happens in 2019 and onward is a whole new discussion.   The air force can issue any RFP that it wants... it then has to find money to pay for them, but those contracts can be structured so as not to run afoul of the law.  For instance, only work on first stages may be funded with EELV money during 2018 (and given that the decision will happen probably in the middle of year, that might not even be an issue).  Also, the air force has other money for development besides EELV money, which isn't effected by the law.

Finally, while congress writes the law, it's the executive branch that interprets it, and 2615, particularly the third section, is extremely vague.  Congress has little power to enforce their interpretation, besides withholding future appropriations.  They could conceivably sue, but unless the air force interprets the law in a way that's patently absurd, such a suit would be quite difficult to win.  As written, section 1 could be plausibly interpreted to allow essentially any work on a first stage, for instance for Vulcan and NGL.  Section 3 can be interpreted to allow any work on the modification of an upper stage that enables a vehicle to satisfy EELV requirements.  That's not  necessarily Mike Lee's interpretation, but the only interpretation that matters is the AFs and maybe a judge's. 

It might be harder for the AF to fund the BFR under section 3 (though they presumably could help fund the first stage under section 1), because the BFR is not "primarily for national security payloads," but this clause seems really meaningless to me.  What does primarily mean? Do companies have to certify that they will not seek commercial business?  That would be ridiculous. Gwen Shotwell has already suggested an argument that BFR *is* primarily for the military. The only organization that might purchase 25 tons to GTO in the current market, is the US govt.  While Spacex themselves might have other plans, they can quite easily argue that for the first few years at the BFR is going to be primarily a military launch vehicle.  While this might be a bit disingenuous, the actual purpose of the BFR, the colonization of mars, is so patently absurd that this might fly :)!
« Last Edit: 11/17/2017 12:43 AM by gongora »

Offline Mike Jones

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Any news on the various bids received by US Air Force ?

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Good article by Eric Berger on the NDAA funding language and thus the flexibility it does, and does not, give the USAF:

https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/11/a-new-law-gives-air-force-some-wiggle-room-in-picking-its-new-rockets/

Two crucial quotes:

Quote
Further, the bill defines “rocket propulsion system” as a main booster, first-stage rocket engine, or motor. The term does not include a launch vehicle, an upper stage, a strap-on motor, or related infrastructure.

Quote
Another provision in the bill relates to the engines under development for Vulcan. This language states that the Air Force may terminate funding for other rocket propulsion systems when “the Secretary of the Air Force certifies to the congressional defense committees that a successful full-scale test of a domestic rocket engine has occurred.”

So first stage funding is fine, but not second or other stages, and AR-1 funding can be dropped once BE-4 achieves a 'full-scale test'.


Online envy887

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Good article by Eric Berger on the NDAA funding language and thus the flexibility it does, and does not, give the USAF:

https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/11/a-new-law-gives-air-force-some-wiggle-room-in-picking-its-new-rockets/

Two crucial quotes:

Quote
Further, the bill defines “rocket propulsion system” as a main booster, first-stage rocket engine, or motor. The term does not include a launch vehicle, an upper stage, a strap-on motor, or related infrastructure.

Quote
Another provision in the bill relates to the engines under development for Vulcan. This language states that the Air Force may terminate funding for other rocket propulsion systems when “the Secretary of the Air Force certifies to the congressional defense committees that a successful full-scale test of a domestic rocket engine has occurred.”

So first stage funding is fine, but not second or other stages, and AR-1 funding can be dropped once BE-4 achieves a 'full-scale test'.

Mr Berger added a comma there. The actual text reads:

Quote
(e) Rocket Propulsion System Defined.—In this section, the term “rocket propulsion system” means, with respect to the development authorized by subsection (a)(1), a main booster, first-stage rocket engine (including such an engine using kerosene or methane-based or other propellant) or motor. The term does not include a launch vehicle, an upper stage, a strap-on motor, or related infrastructure.

So a “rocket propulsion system” is "a main booster, first-stage rocket engine (...) or motor". This reads to me like "main booster" is only modifying the clause "rocket engine or motor". That is, only such engines or motors that are applicable to main boosters are allowed to be funded, while the main boosters themselves are not.

Offline Kabloona

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Mr Berger added a comma there.

Good catch.

I think you're saying the original intent was to specify "a main booster (i.e. first-stage) rocket engine or motor."

Another case of the panda who "Eats, Shoots & Leaves."
« Last Edit: 11/22/2017 12:31 AM by Kabloona »

Offline Rik ISS-fan

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So is the first: "a main booster" the development intent;
  They search for a replacement of the Atlas and Delta booster (core) stages.
and the later the explanation than both Liquid and solid's are allowed?

Online envy887

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Mr Berger added a comma there.

Good catch.

I think you're saying the original intent was to specify "a main booster (i.e. first-stage) rocket engine or motor."

Another case of the panda who "Eats, Shoots & Leaves."

Yes. This is supported by the definition specifically excluding launch vehicle development, which main booster development would fall under.

Offline rockets4life97

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So, is funding for raptor in the same boat as AR-1? In other words, the RFP won't fund engine development after a full-scale engine test (like B-4's)?

Offline Rik ISS-fan

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I think the Raptor engine development contract will remain in place. I think the Raptor development contract involves the use of government owned test facilities, most likely Stand E2 at Stennis. SpaceX has to develop and test the larger preburners and turbo-pumps for the full scale Raptor. At Stennis there are very good facilities for this.
The cost to use these facilities is very little compared to the full engine development cost.
« Last Edit: 11/22/2017 08:45 PM by Rik ISS-fan »

Online gongora

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Not directly related to this RFP, but I ran across this document today and wanted to save it somewhere.

Quote
1.1. Overview:

1.1.1. Prior to 2011, all National Security Space (NSS) payloads were considered as Class A
representing the most critical payloads. Launch vehicles (LVs) that launch Class A payloads
have met the highest level of certification requirements with commensurate demonstrated
reliability and must have the lowest risk tolerance rating. Class B, C and D payloads are
considered more tolerant to risk, and can be flown on LVs with progressively higher risk.

1.1.2. This instruction defines the process on how payload risk classification will be
accomplished and how the resultant risk classifications are incorporated into the overall
launch mission risk classification. It provides the SMC/CC the flexibility to certify flight
worthiness commensurate with payload risk tolerance. Risk Classification will not take
precedence over Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System (JCIDS)
requirements documentation nor affect system design, acquisition, or build methodology
prior to the launch flow decision process. Unlaunched missions over a year from initial
launch capability (ILC) will be reassessed annually, to provide opportunity for updated risk
acceptance decisions. Payloads introduced to an unlaunched mission under a year from ILC
will reviewed on an individual basis for potential changes to launch mission risk
classification. Consistent mission assurance (MA) will preserve operational flexibility in a
Contested, Degraded, or Operationally-limited (CDO) environment.


Online gongora

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The Air Force issued an RFI (Request for Information) dealing with the awarding of launch contracts for EELV Phase 2.  It appears they still intend to go through with the RFP for the LSA's.  The RFI is for the details of how to structure the contract awards after the two providers are chosen.

Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) Launch Service Procurement (LSP) Request for Information (RFI)
Solicitation Number: FA8811-18-R-0002

Offline Mike Jones

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Surprising news!

OrbitalATK is considering the AerojetRocketdyne RL10 or ArianeGroup Vinci rocket engine for its Next Generation Launcher upper stage after rejecting Blueorigin's BE-3U. Decision expected in Q1 2018.

http://aviationweek.com/awinspace/orbital-atk-pick-upper-stage-engine-ngl

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Finally got around to the deliciously tedious task of doing a line-by-line comparison of the original RFP and the Amendment 1 published in late January 2018. Very slight and subtle changes, as far as I can tell, and all are laser-focused on one specific thing: the requirement that potential AF funding is only applied in ways that specifically relate to the development of NSS-relevant capabilities. To quote the two additions I was able to find:

Quote
(Apologies, text was oddly only partially copyable on the updated PDF.)

Quote
3.1.6.4 Primarily NSS Capabilities
In accordance with FY18 NDAA Section 1605, the Offeror shall provide a signed letter certifying that the proposed Government cost share will only be used to develop capabilities necessary to enable existing or planned commercially available space launch vehicles or infrastructure that are primarily for national security space missions.

IMHO, this small addition could be a sign that the RFP was more designed in part to assist SpaceX (among others) in the development of a cryogenic Raptor S2 for Falcon than the development of BFR.

Nevertheless, I'm out of my depth here, and would love to hear opinions on the significance (if any) of this small change.
« Last Edit: 02/04/2018 12:14 AM by vaporcobra »

Offline su27k

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IMHO, this small addition could be a sign that the RFP was more designed in part to assist SpaceX (among others) in the development of a cryogenic Raptor S2 for Falcon than the development of BFR.

Nevertheless, I'm out of my depth here, and would love to hear opinions on the significance (if any) of this small change.

I'm equally clueless but I think the change is made so that the RFP follows the language in FY18 NDAA Section 1605, the change itself has nothing to do with SpaceX or BFR. We can certainly speculate how SpaceX would respond, for example I don't see they go back to Raptor S2 for Falcon. A lot would depend on how everyone involved interpret the text. For example what does "develop capabilities necessary to enable existing or planned commercially available space launch vehicles or infrastructure that are primarily for national security space missions" mean exactly? I'm having trouble parsing this sentence. And what does "development effort necessary to provide the capability to launch Category A/B payloads to NSS reference orbits" cover? Seems to me any work on first or second stage could be argued to be necessary to reach NSS reference orbits.

Online AncientU

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IMHO, this small addition could be a sign that the RFP was more designed in part to assist SpaceX (among others) in the development of a cryogenic Raptor S2 for Falcon than the development of BFR.

Nevertheless, I'm out of my depth here, and would love to hear opinions on the significance (if any) of this small change.

I'm equally clueless but I think the change is made so that the RFP follows the language in FY18 NDAA Section 1605, the change itself has nothing to do with SpaceX or BFR. We can certainly speculate how SpaceX would respond, for example I don't see they go back to Raptor S2 for Falcon. A lot would depend on how everyone involved interpret the text. For example what does "develop capabilities necessary to enable existing or planned commercially available space launch vehicles or infrastructure that are primarily for national security space missions" mean exactly? I'm having trouble parsing this sentence. And what does "development effort necessary to provide the capability to launch Category A/B payloads to NSS reference orbits" cover? Seems to me any work on first or second stage could be argued to be necessary to reach NSS reference orbits.

Add vertical integration
Add long fairings
Add high energy upper stage

F9/FH do not have any of the above and could get funded to develop them to support NSS launches.
Falcon and one day New Glenn are commercially available launch vehicles, the only ones out there, or soon to be out there, that to which this may be applicable.  NGL may also qualify as a planned commercially available launch vehicle that needs these things.
« Last Edit: 02/04/2018 09:55 PM by AncientU »
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Online AndyE

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It looks like the Air Force has already awarded SpaceX $20 million to develop a vertical integration facility, according to this article just published on teslarati.

https://www.teslarati.com/spacex-20m-us-air-force-contract-spy-satellites/

(Apologies if this is the wrong place to put this. First post!)  :)
Acronyms are the enemy of understanding. Why not spell them out and let everyone understand what you are saying?

Online vaporcobra

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It looks like the Air Force has already awarded SpaceX $20 million to develop a vertical integration facility, according to this article just published on teslarati.

https://www.teslarati.com/spacex-20m-us-air-force-contract-spy-satellites/

(Apologies if this is the wrong place to put this. First post!)  :)

You beat me to it, welcome to NSF! ;D Might even be worth a new thread, although it's been absolutely dead silent in all spheres. Up to the mods.

I was stunned to find ZERO coverage of this. I looked really hard and could have missed something (please let me know if you find previous coverage), but I believe it's the only article on the award itself. $20m is a huge amount for the AF to award SpaceX for a simple "study." For comparison, that's about 25% of what the AF has paid SpaceX for individual launch contracts in the past.

For that sum, I'd expect some real hardware to result from it. Study was supposed to be completed by mid-January, would love to see where SpaceX is three months in...
« Last Edit: 02/20/2018 11:19 PM by vaporcobra »

Online gongora

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$20m is a huge amount for the AF to award SpaceX for a simple "study." For comparison, that's about 25% of what the AF has paid SpaceX for previous launches and contracts.

You made me go look at the SpaceX contracts again (like I didn't have enough to do today, thanks alot).  I see about $600M total in publicly known DoD contracts now, which includes four launches (DSCOVR, STP-2, and 2xGPS) and the Raptor development funds.

Online vaporcobra

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$20m is a huge amount for the AF to award SpaceX for a simple "study." For comparison, that's about 25% of what the AF has paid SpaceX for previous launches and contracts.

You made me go look at the SpaceX contracts again (like I didn't have enough to do today, thanks alot).  I see about $600M total in publicly known DoD contracts now, which includes four launches (DSCOVR, STP-2, and 2xGPS) and the Raptor development funds.

I was messing around with .csv export on the FPDS.gov database, definitely worth a look if you have time. Also if you don't have time! Make time for the wonder that is spreadsheets ;)

I got about the same amount from the DoD, and if I remember correctly about $5.3B of funding/contracts from the federal government as a whole. 
« Last Edit: 02/20/2018 08:32 PM by vaporcobra »

Online Lar

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I think Vc meant 25% of what the AF paid Sx for*one* launch....

If we get a few more posts we can carve them out to a new thread.... for now I am not sure this isn't the best place?
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Online gongora

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I think Vc meant 25% of what the AF paid Sx for*one* launch....

If we get a few more posts we can carve them out to a new thread.... for now I am not sure this isn't the best place?

FutureSpaceTourist dug up another thread earlier that had been dormant for a while, it doesn't really matter to me which thread gets used: https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=40721.msg1790777#msg1790777

Offline su27k

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http://spacenews.com/air-force-stakes-future-on-privately-funded-launch-vehicles-will-the-gamble-pay-off/

Quote
The Air Force signed cost-sharing partnerships with ULA, SpaceX, Orbital ATK and Aerojet Rocketdyne. The original request for proposals noted the Air Force wants to “leverage commercial launch solutions in order to have at least two domestic, commercial launch service providers.”

The next step is to select three companies this summer to move forward with enginet prototypes.

“We are on schedule to make LSA awards in July 2018,” a spokesman for the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center told SpaceNews.

Offline rockets4life97

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http://spacenews.com/air-force-stakes-future-on-privately-funded-launch-vehicles-will-the-gamble-pay-off/

Quote
The Air Force signed cost-sharing partnerships with ULA, SpaceX, Orbital ATK and Aerojet Rocketdyne. The original request for proposals noted the Air Force wants to “leverage commercial launch solutions in order to have at least two domestic, commercial launch service providers.”

The next step is to select three companies this summer to move forward with enginet prototypes.

“We are on schedule to make LSA awards in July 2018,” a spokesman for the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center told SpaceNews.

If the development of AR-1 is being scaled back (discussion in the ULA thread about the BE-4 vs AR-1 competition), does this indicate the Air Force will continue to fund raptor development?

Online gongora

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http://spacenews.com/air-force-stakes-future-on-privately-funded-launch-vehicles-will-the-gamble-pay-off/

Quote
The Air Force signed cost-sharing partnerships with ULA, SpaceX, Orbital ATK and Aerojet Rocketdyne. The original request for proposals noted the Air Force wants to “leverage commercial launch solutions in order to have at least two domestic, commercial launch service providers.”

The next step is to select three companies this summer to move forward with enginet prototypes.

“We are on schedule to make LSA awards in July 2018,” a spokesman for the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center told SpaceNews.

If the development of AR-1 is being scaled back (discussion in the ULA thread about the BE-4 vs AR-1 competition), does this indicate the Air Force will continue to fund raptor development?

Raptor and AR-1 have absolutely nothing to do with each other.

Online vaporcobra

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http://spacenews.com/air-force-stakes-future-on-privately-funded-launch-vehicles-will-the-gamble-pay-off/

Quote
The Air Force signed cost-sharing partnerships with ULA, SpaceX, Orbital ATK and Aerojet Rocketdyne. The original request for proposals noted the Air Force wants to “leverage commercial launch solutions in order to have at least two domestic, commercial launch service providers.”

The next step is to select three companies this summer to move forward with enginet prototypes.

“We are on schedule to make LSA awards in July 2018,” a spokesman for the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center told SpaceNews.

If the development of AR-1 is being scaled back (discussion in the ULA thread about the BE-4 vs AR-1 competition), does this indicate the Air Force will continue to fund raptor development?

Raptor and AR-1 have absolutely nothing to do with each other.

Well, I wouldn't go quite that far :) the cancellation of one certainly doesn't necessarily mean anything for the others, but both Raptor and AR-1 R&D have cost-share partnerships with the Air Force under the same LSA.

One thing I'm not certain about in the above article, however, is Sandra's comment that "the next step is to select three companies this summer to move forward with enginet prototypes." If I understood this RFP correctly, the AF would actually be looking to fund three EELV prototypes - they've already funded prototypes of propulsion systems, systems now deep into hot-fire testing.

I believe this was where we were anticipating potential proposals for OATK's NGL, Vulcan, FH/BFR/Raptor US, and perhaps even New Glenn.

Online gongora

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One thing I'm not certain about in the above article, however, is Sandra's comment that "the next step is to select three companies this summer to move forward with enginet prototypes." If I understood this RFP correctly, the AF would actually be looking to fund three EELV prototypes - they've already funded prototypes of propulsion systems, systems now deep into hot-fire testing.

I believe this was where we were anticipating potential proposals for OATK's NGL, Vulcan, FH/BFR/Raptor US, and perhaps even New Glenn.

I don't think that article is particularly well-written, it mixes together two separate programs.

Online vaporcobra

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One thing I'm not certain about in the above article, however, is Sandra's comment that "the next step is to select three companies this summer to move forward with enginet prototypes." If I understood this RFP correctly, the AF would actually be looking to fund three EELV prototypes - they've already funded prototypes of propulsion systems, systems now deep into hot-fire testing.

I believe this was where we were anticipating potential proposals for OATK's NGL, Vulcan, FH/BFR/Raptor US, and perhaps even New Glenn.

I don't think that article is particularly well-written, it mixes together two separate programs.

Sandra is typically awesome, but definitely some problems in this particular article. I can sympathize, everyone makes mistakes ;D

Regardless, LSA awards in July for this RFP is extremely exciting.

Offline Space Ghost 1962

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On the political side, specifically funding was written increasingly carefully to channel funds to AR-1 on the behest of lobbyists (and since it was too obvious and also likely that BE-4 would still win out, that was carefully factored in to a limited degree).

It is quite understandable the confusion here, since the AF earlier on used the broadly worded legislation to also allow Raptor/US and solid booster matching funding. Which the annoyed those lobbyists, thus they applied the spurs to the above mentioned politicians.

Who are still rather PO'ed about BE4, Raptor, and NGL, in that order.

(What I've enjoyed about this is being able to use the lobbyists own inept arguments to provide counter incentives. For example, at one point Raptor's early success meant by those arguments that ULA should be compelled by the AF to seek a means to use Raptor, which wasn't what they intended at all but nevertheless what was the obvious implication of what they were saying. At another point, one could also argue for a solid booster for Vulcan (which was not one of the two configurations possible). In part this stupidity amplified the legislative changes which again were even more stupid and craven by the (ir)relevant politicians to force the current situation, which is simply to pass more dollars for doing even less to AJR.)

Looking forward to AR-1 down select to get on with Vulcan BE-4 so all of that stuff can end, at least for Vulcan. (It will still go on, as Ed Kyle will tell you how much more profitable AJR is, and they are, because they are quite good at acquiring "stupid" money (which does not care about returns on outlays), although not so good at getting anything with competitive booster propulsion out of it.)

Offline rockets4life97

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http://spacenews.com/air-force-stakes-future-on-privately-funded-launch-vehicles-will-the-gamble-pay-off/

Quote
The Air Force signed cost-sharing partnerships with ULA, SpaceX, Orbital ATK and Aerojet Rocketdyne. The original request for proposals noted the Air Force wants to “leverage commercial launch solutions in order to have at least two domestic, commercial launch service providers.”

The next step is to select three companies this summer to move forward with enginet prototypes.

“We are on schedule to make LSA awards in July 2018,” a spokesman for the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center told SpaceNews.

If the development of AR-1 is being scaled back (discussion in the ULA thread about the BE-4 vs AR-1 competition), does this indicate the Air Force will continue to fund raptor development?

Raptor and AR-1 have absolutely nothing to do with each other.

Sorry. My mistake. I was reading the comment as the Air Force will select 2 and their are 3 options. If you take one away, you get 2 competitors for 2 options.

Online gongora

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http://spacenews.com/air-force-stakes-future-on-privately-funded-launch-vehicles-will-the-gamble-pay-off/

Quote
The Air Force signed cost-sharing partnerships with ULA, SpaceX, Orbital ATK and Aerojet Rocketdyne. The original request for proposals noted the Air Force wants to “leverage commercial launch solutions in order to have at least two domestic, commercial launch service providers.”

The next step is to select three companies this summer to move forward with enginet prototypes.

“We are on schedule to make LSA awards in July 2018,” a spokesman for the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center told SpaceNews.

If the development of AR-1 is being scaled back (discussion in the ULA thread about the BE-4 vs AR-1 competition), does this indicate the Air Force will continue to fund raptor development?

Raptor and AR-1 have absolutely nothing to do with each other.

Sorry. My mistake. I was reading the comment as the Air Force will select 2 and their are 3 options. If you take one away, you get 2 competitors for 2 options.

This goes back to the article mixing up different programs.  The "select 2 of 3" is from the follow-on program to the earlier propulsion development contracts, which is to develop new launch vehicles (or upgrade existing launch vehicles) to fulfill the DoD launch requirements.  As far as we know this would probably be Falcon, Vulcan, and NGL (and maybe New Glenn).  Raptor might not even factor into that round at all.

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