Author Topic: Funding for a domestic liquid engine in the National Defense authorization bill  (Read 156626 times)

Offline Rummy

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Yeah I don't see either Blue or SpaceX wanting to design anything they don't own the rights too. That is not how commercial business works. There are very clearly strings in the current proposal that gives the government ownership rights. As has been seen in other programs, that becomes an issue if the government cancels it and then orders the product line scrapped, not to mention your enabling your competitors with the work you did. They don't want to be part sellers, they want to sell a complete product.

Only Aerojet and possibly Northrop would be willing to sign on to those conditions.

I call BS. Money talks and the USAF is willing to be reasonable if contractors bring significant investments to the table.

Offline mhlas7

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Yeah I don't see either Blue or SpaceX wanting to design anything they don't own the rights too. That is not how commercial business works. There are very clearly strings in the current proposal that gives the government ownership rights. As has been seen in other programs, that becomes an issue if the government cancels it and then orders the product line scrapped, not to mention your enabling your competitors with the work you did. They don't want to be part sellers, they want to sell a complete product.

Only Aerojet and possibly Northrop would be willing to sign on to those conditions.

Agreed. This is just my speculation but I bet the AR-1 will get funded by this act so that some senator will get to say "we're building an American engine". In actuality it will just be an excuse to prop up Aerojet since they are loosing all their customers for liquid engines except NASA. But that is just my speculation, as much as I don't want this to happen.

Offline woods170

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Yeah I don't see either Blue or SpaceX wanting to design anything they don't own the rights too. That is not how commercial business works. There are very clearly strings in the current proposal that gives the government ownership rights. As has been seen in other programs, that becomes an issue if the government cancels it and then orders the product line scrapped, not to mention your enabling your competitors with the work you did. They don't want to be part sellers, they want to sell a complete product.

Only Aerojet and possibly Northrop would be willing to sign on to those conditions.

Correct. The minute Blue would accept the Congressionally appropriated money for an RD-180 replacement engine, to fund their BE-4 engine, they would basically lose control of their own engine, in multiple ways. I don't see Bezos accepting such a situation. The current set-up between ULA and Blue makes sure that both parties remain in full control over their own products. They will let their products be USAF/NRO certified, but only after the fact.
Something similar applies to SpaceX.

I think your assessment is correct. The funds for an RD-180 replacement will most likely (IMO) be spent at Aerojet, if ever.
« Last Edit: 05/08/2015 09:44 am by woods170 »

Offline woods170

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Yeah I don't see either Blue or SpaceX wanting to design anything they don't own the rights too. That is not how commercial business works. There are very clearly strings in the current proposal that gives the government ownership rights. As has been seen in other programs, that becomes an issue if the government cancels it and then orders the product line scrapped, not to mention your enabling your competitors with the work you did. They don't want to be part sellers, they want to sell a complete product.

Only Aerojet and possibly Northrop would be willing to sign on to those conditions.

I call BS. Money talks and the USAF is willing to be reasonable if contractors bring significant investments to the table.
The silly story that Falcon 9 certification has become indicates all too clearly that USAF is NOT willing to be reasonable with contractors, even with those that bring ALL the investments to the table on their own. It took a government-ordered investigation to make clear that USAF had been very unreasonable with SpaceX.
« Last Edit: 05/08/2015 09:44 am by woods170 »

Offline AncientU

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Yeah I don't see either Blue or SpaceX wanting to design anything they don't own the rights too. That is not how commercial business works. There are very clearly strings in the current proposal that gives the government ownership rights. As has been seen in other programs, that becomes an issue if the government cancels it and then orders the product line scrapped, not to mention your enabling your competitors with the work you did. They don't want to be part sellers, they want to sell a complete product.

Only Aerojet and possibly Northrop would be willing to sign on to those conditions.

I call BS. Money talks and the USAF is willing to be reasonable if contractors bring significant investments to the table.

I believe that SpaceX will have a Raptor engine that would be a great replacement for RD-180 within the next couple years.  Why on Earth would they want to be compelled to offer it to ULA to save the Atlas?  Same situation as existed when NASA was talking about an advanced booster competition... to be funded starting around (2020 or later).  Why bother was SpaceX's response -- too little, too late.

As Woods170 says, Blue Origins would be unlikely to share their engine either. 

ULA had their opportunity to develop their own engine over the last decade and passed.

Aerojet may be willing to grab the life-ring, but their product would have zero launch services companies buying...

So, I'm not at all surprised the USAF threw a party and no one showed up.
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Offline Rummy

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Yeah I don't see either Blue or SpaceX wanting to design anything they don't own the rights too. That is not how commercial business works. There are very clearly strings in the current proposal that gives the government ownership rights. As has been seen in other programs, that becomes an issue if the government cancels it and then orders the product line scrapped, not to mention your enabling your competitors with the work you did. They don't want to be part sellers, they want to sell a complete product.

Only Aerojet and possibly Northrop would be willing to sign on to those conditions.

I call BS. Money talks and the USAF is willing to be reasonable if contractors bring significant investments to the table.

I believe that SpaceX will have a Raptor engine that would be a great replacement for RD-180 within the next couple years.  Why on Earth would they want to be compelled to offer it to ULA to save the Atlas?  Same situation as existed when NASA was talking about an advanced booster competition... to be funded starting around (2020 or later).  Why bother was SpaceX's response -- too little, too late.

As Woods170 says, Blue Origins would be unlikely to share their engine either. 

ULA had their opportunity to develop their own engine over the last decade and passed.

Aerojet may be willing to grab the life-ring, but their product would have zero launch services companies buying...

So, I'm not at all surprised the USAF threw a party and no one showed up.

We shall see. The party has not been thrown yet.

Offline Brovane

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I believe that SpaceX will have a Raptor engine that would be a great replacement for RD-180 within the next couple years.  Why on Earth would they want to be compelled to offer it to ULA to save the Atlas?  Same situation as existed when NASA was talking about an advanced booster competition... to be funded starting around (2020 or later).  Why bother was SpaceX's response -- too little, too late.

As Woods170 says, Blue Origins would be unlikely to share their engine either. 

ULA had their opportunity to develop their own engine over the last decade and passed.

Aerojet may be willing to grab the life-ring, but their product would have zero launch services companies buying...

So, I'm not at all surprised the USAF threw a party and no one showed up.

Do we really know how far along SpaceX is with the Raptor development?  We also don't know the status of SpaceX and it's funding.  The main intention of the Raptor is to power the "BFR" which is really a rocket that isn't even mentioned in SpaceX's business plan as a future launch platform for the business.  If SpaceX can get the US govt to pay for the development of the Raptor then why not?  They know they have a solid performer in the Falcon9 with it's Merlin Engine's.  Despite the hard feelings, the USAF is going to be a valued customer to SpaceX going forward and they already have experience with dealing with DOD bureaucracy. 
"Look at that! If anybody ever said, "you'll be sitting in a spacecraft naked with a 134-pound backpack on your knees charging it", I'd have said "Aw, get serious". - John Young - Apollo-16

Offline Rummy

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What Brovane said. This is big business, I doubt that SpaceX is going to let early stumbles sour a potentially long and profitable business relationship. Likewise for the Air Force, with all of the swirl associated with ULA, the Air Force can't wait for SpaceX to be a certified launch option. Didn't Gen Hyten say that the nation's security will be greatly improved the moment SpaceX is certified? 

Anyways, I would bet that all of the major players are interested in government investment, regardless of what they say to the press. It's just a matter of what strings come with the money. The original EELV agreements and the NASA COTS agreements are proof that the government is able to relax those strings in certain situations.

Offline Brovane

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What Brovane said. This is big business, I doubt that SpaceX is going to let early stumbles sour a potentially long and profitable business relationship. Likewise for the Air Force, with all of the swirl associated with ULA, the Air Force can't wait for SpaceX to be a certified launch option. Didn't Gen Hyten say that the nation's security will be greatly improved the moment SpaceX is certified? 


Yes he did.  SpaceX has repeatedly impressed the USAF.  SpaceX and the USAF seems very committed to fixing the issues that soured their earlier relationship.  SpaceX has shown the USAF there is actually hardware to backup Mr. Musk's boasts. 

Anyways, I would bet that all of the major players are interested in government investment, regardless of what they say to the press. It's just a matter of what strings come with the money. The original EELV agreements and the NASA COTS agreements are proof that the government is able to relax those strings in certain situations.

For SpaceX is you consider that what we know about the Raptor.  The Raptor has no business model attached to it.  The engine is being developed to fulfill Musk's ambition for Beyond Earth Orbit manned spaceflight, which has no return on investment for the company.  If the govt will pay to develop the engine and doesn't have some ridiculous strings attached to it, IE SpaceX cannot build the engine for it's own launch vehicle etc.  I don't see why SpaceX would not bid on the project.  It could be that there is a internal plan at SpaceX that we don't know about that would make participating in this project with the US Govt a bid idea.  We will just have to be patience and let the events unfold as they will 
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Offline joek

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Anyways, I would bet that all of the major players are interested in government investment, regardless of what they say to the press. It's just a matter of what strings come with the money. The original EELV agreements and the NASA COTS agreements are proof that the government is able to relax those strings in certain situations.

EELV and COTS were conducted under OTA (other transaction authority) by DoD and NASA respectively.  Congress appears to have cooled the use of OTA in the past years.  Maybe this will be different, but I have doubts.

More to the point, the legislation is focused on engine development--as opposed to ensuring launch capability, which is (or should be) the real objective--which is bass-ackwards.

Anyone other than maybe AR or ULA in their right mind should stay far away from this legislation, and any funds attached to it, as Congress is clearly not interested in solving the actual problem.

Offline AncientU

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I believe that SpaceX will have a Raptor engine that would be a great replacement for RD-180 within the next couple years.  Why on Earth would they want to be compelled to offer it to ULA to save the Atlas?  Same situation as existed when NASA was talking about an advanced booster competition... to be funded starting around (2020 or later).  Why bother was SpaceX's response -- too little, too late.

As Woods170 says, Blue Origins would be unlikely to share their engine either. 

ULA had their opportunity to develop their own engine over the last decade and passed.

Aerojet may be willing to grab the life-ring, but their product would have zero launch services companies buying...

So, I'm not at all surprised the USAF threw a party and no one showed up.

Do we really know how far along SpaceX is with the Raptor development?  We also don't know the status of SpaceX and it's funding.  The main intention of the Raptor is to power the "BFR" which is really a rocket that isn't even mentioned in SpaceX's business plan as a future launch platform for the business.  If SpaceX can get the US govt to pay for the development of the Raptor then why not?  They know they have a solid performer in the Falcon9 with it's Merlin Engine's.  Despite the hard feelings, the USAF is going to be a valued customer to SpaceX going forward and they already have experience with dealing with DOD bureaucracy.

Not hard feelings, just business.  The USAF in the person of Aerospace Corp. is too slow, too cumbersome, too intrusive.  They knew about this problem ten years ago and are finally getting off their collective __es.  Took a second Russian invasion of a neighboring country and a Congressional ban to get the message through.

Raptor prototype will be done before anyone gets the first $100M of the RD-180 'replacement' prototyping money.   SpaceX apparently wants the USAF launches (I personally cannot imagine why), but they don't want USAF running their business (see certification train wreck after two years and $500M+) and certainly don't want to give away their technology to the competition who only recently stopped ridiculing them.  I believe EM recently (last year) said that ULA should abandon the Atlas V -- congressional hearings it was, with Mr. Gass.  Would be strange to use what could become America's best engine ever, that they developed on their own buck, to save the Atlas and ULA.
"If we shared everything [we are working on] people would think we are insane!"
-- SpaceX friend of mlindner

Offline AncientU

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I like the irony of a "full and open competition" for a program to help one particular company that is in competition for U.S. national security launches.

Full and open competition after icing out all competition for the bulk of USAF launches for five years.  Yes, competition is at the core of USAF's interests...
"If we shared everything [we are working on] people would think we are insane!"
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Offline Brovane

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Not hard feelings, just business.  The USAF in the person of Aerospace Corp. is too slow, too cumbersome, too intrusive.  They knew about this problem ten years ago and are finally getting off their collective __es.  Took a second Russian invasion of a neighboring country and a Congressional ban to get the message through.

Raptor prototype will be done before anyone gets the first $100M of the RD-180 'replacement' prototyping money.   SpaceX apparently wants the USAF launches (I personally cannot imagine why), but they don't want USAF running their business (see certification train wreck after two years and $500M+) and certainly don't want to give away their technology to the competition who only recently stopped ridiculing them.  I believe EM recently (last year) said that ULA should abandon the Atlas V -- congressional hearings it was, with Mr. Gass.  Would be strange to use what could become America's best engine ever, that they developed on their own buck, to save the Atlas and ULA.

What is the business case for the Raptor for SpaceX?  There is no business case for this engine for SpaceX beyond some conjecture on this board that it could eventually replace the Merlin engine on the Falcon 9.  The Raptor is being developed as a altruistic initiative by SpaceX to make the human species multi-planetary.  As far as engine technology, why would you assume that SpaceX wouldn't want to give away the Raptor technology?  If the goal of SpaceX and Elon Musk is to enable humans to live on other planets.  Then enabling the wide spread use of this technology would help make progress towards this goal of SpaceX.  Tesla Motors has made it's technology freely available to further the development of EVs.   
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Offline Jim

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Not hard feelings, just business.  The USAF in the person of Aerospace Corp. is too slow, too cumbersome, too intrusive.  They knew about this problem ten years ago and are finally getting off their collective __es.  Took a second Russian invasion of a neighboring country and a Congressional ban to get the message through.


Wrong take away.
a.  Aerospace doesn't make procurement decisions
b.  The USAF and NRO were happy with the cost and performance of the RD-180
b.  Congress was involved in the choice of RD-180 for Atlas V.

Offline AncientU

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Not hard feelings, just business.  The USAF in the person of Aerospace Corp. is too slow, too cumbersome, too intrusive.  They knew about this problem ten years ago and are finally getting off their collective __es.  Took a second Russian invasion of a neighboring country and a Congressional ban to get the message through.

Raptor prototype will be done before anyone gets the first $100M of the RD-180 'replacement' prototyping money.   SpaceX apparently wants the USAF launches (I personally cannot imagine why), but they don't want USAF running their business (see certification train wreck after two years and $500M+) and certainly don't want to give away their technology to the competition who only recently stopped ridiculing them.  I believe EM recently (last year) said that ULA should abandon the Atlas V -- congressional hearings it was, with Mr. Gass.  Would be strange to use what could become America's best engine ever, that they developed on their own buck, to save the Atlas and ULA.

What is the business case for the Raptor for SpaceX?  There is no business case for this engine for SpaceX beyond some conjecture on this board that it could eventually replace the Merlin engine on the Falcon 9.  The Raptor is being developed as a altruistic initiative by SpaceX to make the human species multi-planetary.  As far as engine technology, why would you assume that SpaceX wouldn't want to give away the Raptor technology?  If the goal of SpaceX a nd Elon Musk is to enable humans to live on other planets.  Then enabling the wide spread use of this technology would help make progress towards this goal of SpaceX.  Tesla Motors has made it's technology freely available to further the development of EVs.   

Giving it away to help the competition continue their LEO business would throttle the SpaceX revenue stream needed for that altruistic initiative.  There may come a point that the technology is given away (ITAR issues may prohibit it being open source like Tesla tech), but we're in the fight stage at the moment.
"If we shared everything [we are working on] people would think we are insane!"
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Offline Brovane

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Not hard feelings, just business.  The USAF in the person of Aerospace Corp. is too slow, too cumbersome, too intrusive.  They knew about this problem ten years ago and are finally getting off their collective __es.  Took a second Russian invasion of a neighboring country and a Congressional ban to get the message through.

Raptor prototype will be done before anyone gets the first $100M of the RD-180 'replacement' prototyping money.   SpaceX apparently wants the USAF launches (I personally cannot imagine why), but they don't want USAF running their business (see certification train wreck after two years and $500M+) and certainly don't want to give away their technology to the competition who only recently stopped ridiculing them.  I believe EM recently (last year) said that ULA should abandon the Atlas V -- congressional hearings it was, with Mr. Gass.  Would be strange to use what could become America's best engine ever, that they developed on their own buck, to save the Atlas and ULA.

What is the business case for the Raptor for SpaceX?  There is no business case for this engine for SpaceX beyond some conjecture on this board that it could eventually replace the Merlin engine on the Falcon 9.  The Raptor is being developed as a altruistic initiative by SpaceX to make the human species multi-planetary.  As far as engine technology, why would you assume that SpaceX wouldn't want to give away the Raptor technology?  If the goal of SpaceX a nd Elon Musk is to enable humans to live on other planets.  Then enabling the wide spread use of this technology would help make progress towards this goal of SpaceX.  Tesla Motors has made it's technology freely available to further the development of EVs.   

Giving it away to help the competition continue their LEO business would throttle the SpaceX revenue stream needed for that altruistic initiative.  There may come a point that the technology is given away (ITAR issues may prohibit it being open source like Tesla tech), but we're in the fight stage at the moment.

If the assumption is that a re-usable launch vehicle is going to give SpaceX a serious advantage over any other launch provider from a pricing stand-point.   It cannot be assumed that a Raptor powered competitor is going to throttle the SpaceX revenue stream.  That Raptor engine still has to be mated with a launch vehicle that can compete on price and reliability with a Falcon 9 or Falcon Heavy.  SpaceX's manufacturing processes and overall design is what drives the Falcon 9 success.  The actual engine itself is just one piece of that puzzle.   

You have a strong probability that any launch provider looking to use the Raptor is going to wind-up at SpaceX's door looking to purchase that engine.  As we can see from the RD-180, even haven't blue prints on hand doesn't equal the ability to produce a engine.  So SpaceX builds the engine and sells the engine and gets a percentage return on the sale.             
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Offline WindnWar

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How many ways does it need to be said that SpaceX does not want to be in the part business. They won't go seeking money from the Air Force for an engine as long as it has the current strings attached allowing that engine to be used by competitors and the design owned by the Air Force. That is not how they operate. The same goes for Blue Origin. The only company that would jump on that sort of deal is Aerojet because they need the funding badly and the possibility to have an engine they might be able to sell. The chances of having a customer for that engine are slim to none however unless the BE-4 fails or suffers setbacks. They are in a nasty spot of potentially losing future sales of both the RS-68 and sales of the RL-10 other than the few needed by NASA.

SpaceX and Blue Origin do not need the money, their companies are not riding on it as they have plenty of sources of revenue.

Offline QuantumG

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Uh huh. For some reason I don't think SpaceX would turn down a deal that made them the primary engine supplier to ULA. Keep your friends close...
Human spaceflight is basically just LARPing now.

Offline woods170

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Uh huh. For some reason I don't think SpaceX would turn down a deal that made them the primary engine supplier to ULA. Keep your friends close...


That's silly. ULA would rather buy engines from the Russians than from Musk et al.

Offline QuantumG

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That's silly. ULA would rather buy engines from the Russians than from Musk et al.

Exactly, and for the same reason SpaceX would not just bid on any proposal to replace Russian engines with their own, it's quite plausible they'd be behind the suggestion in the first place.
Human spaceflight is basically just LARPing now.

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