Author Topic: Funding for a domestic liquid engine in the National Defense authorization bill  (Read 156564 times)

Offline TrevorMonty

Given ULA are going with BE4 which is being privately funded. Then the only contender for this money is Aerojet AR1, with the Antares as only foreseeable LV for it or even less likely SLS boosters.

Offline ChrisWilson68

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3860
  • Sunnyvale, CA
  • Liked: 2571
  • Likes Given: 3315
Given ULA are going with BE4 which is being privately funded. Then the only contender for this money is Aerojet AR1, with the Antares as only foreseeable LV for it or even less likely SLS boosters.

The language doesn't seem to exclude spending the money on BE4.  Given this is the Air Force spending the money and their cosy relationship with ULA, I wouldn't be surprised if the Air Force tailored their requirements to make BE4 the clear winner of any contest that is held to spend the money.  Whether Congress goes along with that is another question, but once the bill has passed, there may not be much chance of Congressional action before the next fiscal year.  Just because ULA said they were going to do it anyway doesn't prevent the government from stepping in and paying for it.

It's also certainly possible the money will be given to Aerojet instead.  I'd expect to see a protest by ULA and Blue Origin in that case.

The language also doesn't seem to exclude spending the money on SpaceX.  Given the current relationship between SpaceX and the Air Force, as well as the Congressional intent of this bill, I doubt the Air Force will want to do that.  But SpaceX might lobby for it and might protest if they don't get it.  Who knows what SpaceX would propose to spend the money on, but they have a large engine development team and they could propose spending it on something they want to do anyway or on some new engine.  Maybe they wouldn't be interested if they think it would be a distraction, but then again I've never known Musk to leave any government money on the table.  Maybe they'll see this as a way to pay for part of Raptor or for a new Merlin-class methane engine or even just modest upgrades to Merlin 1D.


Offline Prober

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 10317
  • Save the spin....I'm keeping you honest!
  • Nevada
  • Liked: 702
  • Likes Given: 728
Wonder how one bids on a project like this.  Might be fun to watch :-X
2017 - Everything Old is New Again.
I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work. ~ by Thomas Alva Edison

Online JBF

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 1411
  • Liked: 424
  • Likes Given: 781
We will have to wait and see what the bid proposal calls for; but I wouldn't be surprised if there was a clause requiring any engines developed with this money must be available for purchase by 3rd parties.
"In principle, rocket engines are simple, but that’s the last place rocket engines are ever simple." Jeff Bezos

Online wannamoonbase

  • Elite Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3133
  • Denver, CO
    • U.S. Metric Association
  • Liked: 776
  • Likes Given: 1255
This is simple, it's $220 million for the fiscal year.  That's a lot of money for one year and a program over the next 4 fiscal years could push a billion or more.

The sum of $220 million and being a DoD project we will see the legacy contractor, Aerojet.  Blue Origin and maybe SpaceX won't be excluded but this is not their barrel of pork. 

Fingers crossed this could eventually lead to replacing solids on SLS.

I'll bet a cold coke that Aerojet wins and builds this engine and that it is staged combustion RP1.
« Last Edit: 12/10/2014 01:12 pm by wannamoonbase »
Needing a copy of 'Tales of Suspense #39'

Offline TrevorMonty

We will have to wait and see what the bid proposal calls for; but I wouldn't be surprised if there was a clause requiring any engines developed with this money must be available for purchase by 3rd parties.
Which is why ULA and Blue don't want the money, same applies to SpaceX.

 This just leaves Aerojet to develop an engine without a LV.

Offline RedLineTrain

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 858
  • Liked: 545
  • Likes Given: 815
Blue and SpaceX probably do want the money, if the other strings attached are minimal.  Blue has shown it doesn't mind selling its BE-4 to ULA and I imagine SpaceX would be fine committing to selling Raptor to others.  Indeed, a response to an earlier Air Force Request for Information on a proposed big rocket engine program seemed to indicate that SpaceX was contemplating it.  It may be safe for SpaceX to assume that no rocket builders would buy, though.
« Last Edit: 12/10/2014 02:02 pm by RedLineTrain »

Offline yg1968

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 9788
  • Liked: 1473
  • Likes Given: 889
Section 1604 of the National Defense Authorization bill which was passed by the House (and which should also be passed by the Senate this week) contains language that says that the engine has to be available to all domestic space launch providers:

Quote
9 SEC. 1604. ROCKET PROPULSION SYSTEM DEVELOPMENT
10 PROGRAM.
11 (a) DEVELOPMENT.—
12 (1) IN GENERAL.—The Secretary of Defense
13 shall develop a next-generation rocket propulsion
14 system that enables the effective, efficient, and expe-
15 dient transition from the use of non-allied space
16 launch engines to a domestic alternative for national
17 security space launches.
18 (2) REQUIREMENTS.—The system developed
19 under paragraph (1) shall—
20 (A) be made in the United States;
21 (B) meet the requirements of the national
22 security space community;
23 (C) be developed by not later than 2019;
24 (D) be developed using full and open com-
25 petition; and
1 (E) be available for purchase by all space
2 launch providers of the United States.

3 (b) REPORT.—Not later than 180 days after the date
4 of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall submit
5 to the appropriate congressional committees a report that
6 includes—
7 (1) a plan to carry out the development of the
8 rocket propulsion system under subsection (a), in-
9 cluding an analysis of the benefits of using public-
10 private partnerships;
11 (2) the requirements of the program to develop
12 such system; and
13 (3) the estimated cost of such system.

14 (c) APPROPRIATE CONGRESSIONAL COMMITTEES DE-
15 FINED.—In this section, the term ‘‘appropriate congres-
16 sional committees’’ means the following:
17 (1) The congressional defense committees.
18 (2) The Permanent Select Committee on Intel-
19 ligence of the House of Representatives and the Se-
20 lect Committee on Intelligence of the Senate.

http://www.armed-services.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/CPRT-113-HPRT-RU00-S1847.pdf
« Last Edit: 12/10/2014 02:24 pm by yg1968 »

Online JBF

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 1411
  • Liked: 424
  • Likes Given: 781
Interesting that language is wide open, no propellent or thrust specification.
"In principle, rocket engines are simple, but that’s the last place rocket engines are ever simple." Jeff Bezos

Offline AncientU

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 6250
  • Liked: 4116
  • Likes Given: 5642
Interesting that language is wide open, no propellent or thrust specification.

Congress would never assume the responsibility to specify hardware...  ;)
"If we shared everything [we are working on] people would think we are insane!"
-- SpaceX friend of mlindner

Offline MP99



Fingers crossed this could eventually lead to replacing solids on SLS.

I'll bet a cold coke that Aerojet wins and builds this engine and that it is staged combustion RP1.

If Aerojet gets it, and SLS is looking like the only customer, I'd rather that they build F-1B.

Cheers, Martin

Offline yg1968

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 9788
  • Liked: 1473
  • Likes Given: 889
Blue and SpaceX probably do want the money, if the other strings attached are minimal.  Blue has shown it doesn't mind selling its BE-4 to ULA and I imagine SpaceX would be fine committing to selling Raptor to others.  Indeed, a response to an earlier Air Force Request for Information on a proposed big rocket engine program seemed to indicate that SpaceX was contemplating it.  It may be safe for SpaceX to assume that no rocket builders would buy, though.

SpaceX could price their raptor engine high enough that they would make just as much profit selling their engine to other providers as they do when selling their rocket to customers.
« Last Edit: 12/10/2014 02:44 pm by yg1968 »

Offline woods170

  • IRAS fan
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 8940
  • IRAS fan
  • The Netherlands
  • Liked: 6150
  • Likes Given: 2081
Section 1604 of the National Defense Authorization bill which was passed by the House (and which should also be passed by the Senate this week) contains language that says that the engine has to be available to all domestic space launch providers:

Quote
9 SEC. 1604. ROCKET PROPULSION SYSTEM DEVELOPMENT
10 PROGRAM.
11 (a) DEVELOPMENT.—
12 (1) IN GENERAL.—The Secretary of Defense
13 shall develop a next-generation rocket propulsion
14 system that enables the effective, efficient, and expe-
15 dient transition from the use of non-allied space
16 launch engines to a domestic alternative for national
17 security space launches.
18 (2) REQUIREMENTS.—The system developed
19 under paragraph (1) shall—
20 (A) be made in the United States;
21 (B) meet the requirements of the national
22 security space community;
23 (C) be developed by not later than 2019;
24 (D) be developed using full and open com-
25 petition; and
1 (E) be available for purchase by all space
2 launch providers of the United States.

3 (b) REPORT.—Not later than 180 days after the date
4 of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall submit
5 to the appropriate congressional committees a report that
6 includes—
7 (1) a plan to carry out the development of the
8 rocket propulsion system under subsection (a), in-
9 cluding an analysis of the benefits of using public-
10 private partnerships;
11 (2) the requirements of the program to develop
12 such system; and
13 (3) the estimated cost of such system.

14 (c) APPROPRIATE CONGRESSIONAL COMMITTEES DE-
15 FINED.—In this section, the term ‘‘appropriate congres-
16 sional committees’’ means the following:
17 (1) The congressional defense committees.
18 (2) The Permanent Select Committee on Intel-
19 ligence of the House of Representatives and the Se-
20 lect Committee on Intelligence of the Senate.

http://www.armed-services.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/CPRT-113-HPRT-RU00-S1847.pdf


The clause as foreseen by JBF is indeed there with TrevorMonty being spot-on. This clause will keep ULA, Blue and (likely) SpaceX away from this 220 million US$. Why develop an engine if next you have to sell it to your competitors. Crony capitalism Good business demands you keep it ALL to yourself, including the launcher, not just the engine.
Some examples to support this theory:
- ULA won't let anyone else buy the RD-180. It's exclusive to them.
- SpaceX doesn't sell their engines to others. They're exclusively for SpaceX.
- Blue is developing the BE-4 in exclusive partnership with ULA. Similar arrangement to the current RD-180 situation.

IMO it's a safe bet the only bidder for this money will be Aerojet, if at all. Perhaps we will be surprised by some unexpected new entrant going for this money.
« Last Edit: 12/10/2014 02:47 pm by woods170 »

Offline yg1968

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 9788
  • Liked: 1473
  • Likes Given: 889
Crony capitalism means government giving contracts to their buddies or supporters. Are you saying that this funding is directed towards Aerojet only?

Online wannamoonbase

  • Elite Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3133
  • Denver, CO
    • U.S. Metric Association
  • Liked: 776
  • Likes Given: 1255
Given ULA are going with BE4 which is being privately funded. Then the only contender for this money is Aerojet AR1, with the Antares as only foreseeable LV for it or even less likely SLS boosters.

I recall the ULA selection language being that they are looking at BE4 and that they were careful to give themselves an out.

Which is smart, it makes other engine providers sharpen their pencils as well since BE4 is not a completed product and not flight proven they need an out if it experiences reliability, cost or schedule problems.

That's why I think ULA is a potential, likely, customer.

Note: The poor RS-68 gets little respect in all this booster engine discussion.  But it is kind of a beast.
Needing a copy of 'Tales of Suspense #39'

Online butters

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 1789
  • Liked: 419
  • Likes Given: 159
I think the Air Force is concerned about the vertical integration of engine suppliers with launch services potentially leaving the government without an independent engine supplier for military vehicles.

Offline nadreck

Quote
9 SEC. 1604. ROCKET PROPULSION SYSTEM DEVELOPMENT
10 PROGRAM.
11 (a) DEVELOPMENT.—
12 (1) IN GENERAL.—The Secretary of Defense
13 shall develop a next-generation rocket propulsion
14 system that enables the effective, efficient, and expe-
15 dient transition from the use of non-allied space
16 launch engines to a domestic alternative for national
17 security space launches.
18 (2) REQUIREMENTS.—The system developed
19 under paragraph (1) shall—
20 (A) be made in the United States;
21 (B) meet the requirements of the national
22 security space community;
23 (C) be developed by not later than 2019;
24 (D) be developed using full and open com-
25 petition; and
1 (E) be available for purchase by all space
2 launch providers of the United States.


Is it just me or are B and D above almost impossible to pin down and invite all sorts of argument and recrimination after the fact?
It is all well and good to quote those things that made it past your confirmation bias that other people wrote, but this is a discussion board damnit! Let us know what you think! And why!

Offline ChrisWilson68

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3860
  • Sunnyvale, CA
  • Liked: 2571
  • Likes Given: 3315
Section 1604 of the National Defense Authorization bill which was passed by the House (and which should also be passed by the Senate this week) contains language that says that the engine has to be available to all domestic space launch providers:

[...]

http://www.armed-services.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/CPRT-113-HPRT-RU00-S1847.pdf


The clause as foreseen by JBF is indeed there with TrevorMonty being spot-on. This clause will keep ULA, Blue and (likely) SpaceX away from this 220 million US$. Why develop an engine if next you have to sell it to your competitors. Crony capitalism Good business demands you keep it ALL to yourself, including the launcher, not just the engine.
Some examples to support this theory:
- ULA won't let anyone else buy the RD-180. It's exclusive to them.
- SpaceX doesn't sell their engines to others. They're exclusively for SpaceX.
- Blue is developing the BE-4 in exclusive partnership with ULA. Similar arrangement to the current RD-180 situation.

IMO it's a safe bet the only bidder for this money will be Aerojet, if at all. Perhaps we will be surprised by some unexpected new entrant going for this money.

I disagree.  First of all, Blue Origin has already made a deal to sell engines to ULA, which is a rival for launcher sales.

Whether a company that builds both engines and launchers is willing to sell the engines separately depends on a lot of factors.  There are reasons for them not to, to help their own launcher business.  But there can be more compelling factors that outweigh that.  If the government is going to pay for the development of a new engine, that's a pretty strong incentive to sell to the competition.

Anyway, there's nothing in the bill that says how much they have to sell for.  They can price them high enough that it puts competing launchers at a serious disadvantage.

I think Blue Origin at least will go for this money, and possibly SpaceX too.

Offline ChrisWilson68

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3860
  • Sunnyvale, CA
  • Liked: 2571
  • Likes Given: 3315
Quote
9 SEC. 1604. ROCKET PROPULSION SYSTEM DEVELOPMENT
10 PROGRAM.
11 (a) DEVELOPMENT.—
12 (1) IN GENERAL.—The Secretary of Defense
13 shall develop a next-generation rocket propulsion
14 system that enables the effective, efficient, and expe-
15 dient transition from the use of non-allied space
16 launch engines to a domestic alternative for national
17 security space launches.
18 (2) REQUIREMENTS.—The system developed
19 under paragraph (1) shall—
20 (A) be made in the United States;
21 (B) meet the requirements of the national
22 security space community;
23 (C) be developed by not later than 2019;
24 (D) be developed using full and open com-
25 petition; and
1 (E) be available for purchase by all space
2 launch providers of the United States.


Is it just me or are B and D above almost impossible to pin down and invite all sorts of argument and recrimination after the fact?

Yes, I think there will be recriminations.  But my read of B is that it basically lets the Air Force dictate the specs of the engine.  They'll likely spec it for Atlas V and SpaceX will complain.

Offline Prober

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 10317
  • Save the spin....I'm keeping you honest!
  • Nevada
  • Liked: 702
  • Likes Given: 728
Quote
9 SEC. 1604. ROCKET PROPULSION SYSTEM DEVELOPMENT
10 PROGRAM.
11 (a) DEVELOPMENT.—
12 (1) IN GENERAL.—The Secretary of Defense
13 shall develop a next-generation rocket propulsion
14 system that enables the effective, efficient, and expe-
15 dient transition from the use of non-allied space
16 launch engines to a domestic alternative for national
17 security space launches.
18 (2) REQUIREMENTS.—The system developed
19 under paragraph (1) shall—
20 (A) be made in the United States;
21 (B) meet the requirements of the national
22 security space community;
23 (C) be developed by not later than 2019;
24 (D) be developed using full and open com-
25 petition; and
1 (E) be available for purchase by all space
2 launch providers of the United States.


Is it just me or are B and D above almost impossible to pin down and invite all sorts of argument and recrimination after the fact?

Yes, I think there will be recriminations.  But my read of B is that it basically lets the Air Force dictate the specs of the engine.  They'll likely spec it for Atlas V and SpaceX will complain.

24 (D) be developed using full and open com-
25 petition; and

Would like to see this a full and Open competition....have doubts it will be.
2017 - Everything Old is New Again.
I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work. ~ by Thomas Alva Edison

Tags: