Author Topic: Aerojet Rocketdyne's proposed RD-180 replacement - the AR-1 (aka AJ-1E6)  (Read 166187 times)

Online TrevorMonty

One potential LV is Northrop Grumman XS1 vehicle with a OA developed BE3 US. NG were going to use a few of Virgin 70klb Newton3, so switch to 1x AR1 is not that radical as vehicle was design for RP1 engines and 1x550klb engine would be about right size for this class of RLV (1500-3000kg).

https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/northrop-backs-xs-1-spaceplane-to-join-satellite-lau-424210/

This article from last  year but it seems NG are serious about entering LV business, which could explain OA purchase.

« Last Edit: 10/31/2017 09:24 AM by TrevorMonty »

Offline GWH

How is it already reusable? It's early in development, and re-usability has not been something that AJR has promoted as a part of AR-1 - unless I missed it.

AR-1 is a candidate for SMART reuse on Vulcan.

So is BE-4 and that one is actually being designed and constructed for reuse (given it's role on New Glenn).
I was perusing through a ULA paper on SMART reuse, they specifically mention that BE-4 being designed for reusability makes it an ideal fit,  and make no mention of AR-1. Personally I haven't seen mention anywhere of AR-1 being designed for reusability. Do you have a source on that?

EDIT: To answer my own question, yes it can be reused:
Quote
Martin said the AR1 could be reused if selected by ULA.

“We have had discussions with ULA about reusability, and in the context of their concept, where it’s (something) like five to 10 reuses, AR1 meets that requirement,” Martin said. “For example, during development testing, we’ll baseline testing these engines at least 20 times, and usually quite a bit more. They’re inherently reusable to a certain amount, and then it’s just a question of how reusable.
https://spaceflightnow.com/2017/05/19/ar1-engine-clears-milestone-in-step-toward-ending-u-s-reliance-on-russian-propulsion/
« Last Edit: 10/31/2017 04:38 PM by GWH »

Offline Space Ghost 1962

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They have to have limited reuse to allow for testing/qualification/aborts.

Better question - are they designed for reflights? BE-4 is/many.

Suggestion - ask AJR about how many reflights for AR-1? Highly likely they'll hedge the question  ;D

Offline envy887

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They have to have limited reuse to allow for testing/qualification/aborts.

Better question - are they designed for reflights? BE-4 is/many.

Suggestion - ask AJR about how many reflights for AR-1? Highly likely they'll hedge the question  ;D

BE-4 is designed for 100 or more flights, based on Blue's targets for New Glenn reflight.

RD-180 is rated for 10 reflights (IIRC) so AR-1 probably is designed to that spec if it's designed for reflight at all.

Offline Space Ghost 1962

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They have to have limited reuse to allow for testing/qualification/aborts.

Better question - are they designed for reflights? BE-4 is/many.

Suggestion - ask AJR about how many reflights for AR-1? Highly likely they'll hedge the question  ;D

BE-4 is designed for 100 or more flights, based on Blue's targets for New Glenn reflight.

RD-180 is rated for 10 reflights (IIRC) so AR-1 probably is designed to that spec if it's designed for reflight at all.

SX and BO have modified engines significantly following successive landings. (You may remember the early stage recoveries with visible engine damage.) These have fed in to the design of subsequent engines.

Even RD-180 does not have what Raptor and BE-4 have had fed back into design from Merlin and BE-3.

Now ... where does AR-1 get any of that? How is it tested/refined?

Those that run down SX/BO to build up AJR and NPO Energomash (great firms with great products), miss a considerable business/legal/regulatory difference.

Offline DreamyPickle

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Does reusability even make sense for AR1?

SpaceX makes money by flying payloads, reusable engines means they can spend less manufacturing resources on Merlin. But Aerojet makes engine, all successful reuse means for them is less income and an even lower production rate.

Offline GWH

There is definitely competing interests there. For ULA competing with AR-1 being a very expensive engine ($25M a pair) will be very difficult without reuse. But for AR only selling one pair for every 10 flights they wouldn't have a hope of breaking even.

Offline Space Ghost 1962

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There is definitely competing interests there. For ULA competing with AR-1 being a very expensive engine ($25M a pair) will be very difficult without reuse. But for AR only selling one pair for every 10 flights they wouldn't have a hope of breaking even.

AJR does not earn revenue so much off its product as the exorbitant contracts (government) that surround the products.

They are, as Sowers describes, professional leeches. That is in fact what they were designed to be by circumstance, as an outgrowth of decision from the Nixon administration's forced acqusitions in aerospace.

Precisely the kinds of deals that cause people to misunderstand ULA as well. And partly what Tory Bruno is up against in restructuring ULA to give it a future.

Now, what was supposed to happen, well before the invasion of the Crimea, was that AR-1 was supposed to be a commercial engine that was competitive in its own rights in selling even to SX. Possibly w/o government funds, which was an incredible stretch. Or so the turnaround fantasy logic was to me, with even more as follow on.

(Bring this up so you can appreciate the situation in turning around AJR in light of what is happening at ULA. They both still survive on special treatment by USG, but to a lessening degree with ULA because of SX's success makes it harder to be outright unfair. Keep in mind that firms like this entirely were set up around the necessity of such "unfairness", and they feel burned in having it to begin with, in needing it to survive, and in having to find a way out of the trap.) By no means is this easy.

So when people talk of using AR-1 with yet another government program, it doesn't necessarily do AJR the kind of favor it really needs to remedy its root issues. It just gives the leach another artery to temporarily avoid the necessary reinvention. This does not make a firm better. And that idiot Casper Wienberger, while not directly complicit in this situation, did create this, one of many, by a colossal idiocy that caused many of these, ironically to "make Amercian aerospace great again".  ::)

add:
The root presumption was that space would always remain small, hard, and rare. I.E. that a BO or a SX would never happen.
« Last Edit: 11/03/2017 06:34 PM by Space Ghost 1962 »

Online deruch

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The root presumption was that space would always remain small, hard, and rare. I.E. that a BO or a SX would never happen.

Given history, not exactly a bad wager.  SX made it just barely by the skin of their teeth with a big assist from NASA (COTS/CRS).
Shouldn't reality posts be in "Advanced concepts"?  --Nomadd

Online oldAtlas_Eguy

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Reduce the quantity form 10 pairs /year to only 1 pair / year and the unit price will soar from the $25M current quote to somewhere around $80M per pair. This is the similar price per pair/year that AJR gave NASA for RS-25E ($50M each engine or $100M for the pair) for only building 2 engines per year.

The best thing that ULA could do would be to buy as many as AJR could produce a year for as long as needed to get 20 years worth of operations. Or about $500M worth of 20 pair of engines. Then ULA would tell AJR to get lost and shut down the production line. Then ULA would fly and reuse the engine pairs 10 X each for a total of 200 flights giving a cost per flight value for engines of $2.5M.

But ULA is trying to avoid this economic hole and the necessity of using their own money to bring prices down tying up funds long term that could be used for other useful developments.


Offline Space Ghost 1962

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The root presumption was that space would always remain small, hard, and rare. I.E. that a BO or a SX would never happen.

Given history, not exactly a bad wager.  SX made it just barely by the skin of their teeth with a big assist from NASA (COTS/CRS).

Self-fulfilling prophecy.

Online john smith 19

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They are, as Sowers describes, professional leeches. That is in fact what they were designed to be by circumstance, as an outgrowth of decision from the Nixon administration's forced acqusitions in aerospace.


So when people talk of using AR-1 with yet another government program, it doesn't necessarily do AJR the kind of favor it really needs to remedy its root issues. It just gives the leach another artery to temporarily avoid the necessary reinvention. This does not make a firm better. And that idiot Casper Wienberger, while not directly complicit in this situation, did create this, one of many, by a colossal idiocy that caused many of these, ironically to "make Amercian aerospace great again".  ::)

I'm thinking of the analogy that AJR is like a virus that infects ULA. Raising it's prices is like raising the temperature of the body. Sooner or later either the body overcomes the virus or the body dies.  :(

They are both a product of the USG's absolute desire to maintain access to space at all times, regardless of a level of price inflation that sometimes seems to outsiders a lot like extortion.  :(

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Offline Space Ghost 1962

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They are, as Sowers describes, professional leeches. That is in fact what they were designed to be by circumstance, as an outgrowth of decision from the Nixon administration's forced acqusitions in aerospace.


So when people talk of using AR-1 with yet another government program, it doesn't necessarily do AJR the kind of favor it really needs to remedy its root issues. It just gives the leach another artery to temporarily avoid the necessary reinvention. This does not make a firm better. And that idiot Casper Wienberger, while not directly complicit in this situation, did create this, one of many, by a colossal idiocy that caused many of these, ironically to "make Amercian aerospace great again".  ::)

I'm thinking of the analogy that AJR is like a virus that infects ULA. Raising it's prices is like raising the temperature of the body. Sooner or later either the body overcomes the virus or the body dies.  :(

They are both a product of the USG's absolute desire to maintain access to space at all times, regardless of a level of price inflation that sometimes seems to outsiders a lot like extortion.  :(
Nah.

It was a bet that space was for the most part unusable (this hasn't yet been unproven either). And that the only real use would be by governments, who would in term be the only true "anchor clients" to be concerned with it, with the commercial rabble just allowing them to spread costs a bit. (EELV had commercial as second class citizens.)

So they wished to structure this in the most optimum way given that expectation. In this case, the "virus" was government policy. And its still omnipresent, though the least stable its ever been.

We started out with many incompatible launch systems which each had to be kept current with some amount of flight frequency, and its own supply chain. Why pay for so much duplication?

The smartest, best part of the decision was that of having the launch provider concept, with a competitive bid for launches. IMHO we are only now going back to a system of national launch contracts that loosely resembles a market system (too small to really work by market economics or to avoid political influence), and that's because the providers supply chains overlap at the least granular level.

The beyond stupid part was misunderstanding propulsion systems in terms of design, test, IPR, and manufacturing. The value is held not in engines as products but engine+related IPR, and as an economy we're kind of half way there. So creating engine companies with single use application was asking for trouble, because too much rides on too little, so you get into corporate loading that greatly distorts costing. You can solve this vertically (SX) or horizontally (BO+ULA+possibly others). Worse yet, now you have a disincentive to compete with newer propulsion technologies, because you're still paying off the old ones (russian engines suffer from this, that's why the interest in foreign consumers). Lots more than just propulsion, but its an obvious example.

And it gets even deeper when you add in overlap areas with non-space related industries, as well as the necessary policies to keep certain technologies separate artificially for munitions,  materials, and quality/traceability.

Generally the problem was due to the simplistic view of stuffing it into a container and forgetting the problem. Our industry, society, and means to "interoperate" make the simple containers obstacles to the future, ways by which things don't keep current but become irrelevant.

Disruption reveals this, although it doesn't necessarily mean things have to get better after getting though it, although so far that seems to be what does happen at the very end anyways.

Online AncientU

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They are, as Sowers describes, professional leeches. That is in fact what they were designed to be by circumstance, as an outgrowth of decision from the Nixon administration's forced acqusitions in aerospace.


So when people talk of using AR-1 with yet another government program, it doesn't necessarily do AJR the kind of favor it really needs to remedy its root issues. It just gives the leach another artery to temporarily avoid the necessary reinvention. This does not make a firm better. And that idiot Casper Wienberger, while not directly complicit in this situation, did create this, one of many, by a colossal idiocy that caused many of these, ironically to "make Amercian aerospace great again".  ::)

I'm thinking of the analogy that AJR is like a virus that infects ULA. Raising it's prices is like raising the temperature of the body. Sooner or later either the body overcomes the virus or the body dies.  :(

They are both a product of the USG's absolute desire to maintain access to space at all times, regardless of a level of price inflation that sometimes seems to outsiders a lot like extortion.  :(

With the Centaurus 5 needing multiple (3-4?) RL-10s, or a single BE-EU (>110,000klbf) -- and Vulcan needing to cost half as much as Atlas V -- hasn't price inflation at AJR essentially killed use of RL-10 on Vulcan/Centaurus 5?
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Offline Space Ghost 1962

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More of a decision for AJR than a decision for ULA.

Unlike the past, ULA is getting to the point where it has more options. The pivot point appears to be the down selection of engine providers for Vulcan. (Were AR-1 to be selected, Vulcan would in effect become an even more narrower (because of expectation of flight frequency) platform than Atlas V.) If BO carries through with timely qualification of BE-4 for Vulcan, we may see a much broader platform than previously described.

The original point of AR-1 was missed. Does AJR want to narrow its options still further? It's really easy and seductive to follow the old game plan of using Congress to proffer more contracts to keep the old space masters alive. But when there's too much new, and the old ones can't play the new game, at some point this becomes ... risky.

It's always been necessary to reorient the firm, just like ULA, to have a greater revenue base through commercial contracts to offset likely "shrinkage" in govt contracts. An AR1 contact to supplant SLS solids, while causing a hit eventually to NG/OA, won't breath much life into AJR. And in the interim Centaur 3/5 use of RL10 at high price, more than the booster engine, might be tolerable ... but its long term viability is in doubt. If AJR only sells infrequently flown engines on govt HSF vehicles, it becomes a single customer company whose fortunes might be tied to a single LV that's 20x more costly with 2-3 alternatives that might replace it?

The alternative isn't great either. Lets say they have a low cost RL10 (which they most certainly can, they've always been able to dominate with a global leader in US/inspace propulsion but they've never dared to do it) - the play would be for volume. You'd especially want to do this BEFORE reuse in the US kicks in, because you'd want to establish yourself as owning this "high ground" and being the one that "disrupts" by offering the best, highest reuse/performance/reliable propulsion ever (you might even want to sell entire stages!).

Right now the push is on across all industries, for industry leaders to lead the disruption occurring to them, rather than be swallowed by rivals. (Hambrecht and Quist told the media/communications industries this 2 decades ago.)

Ironically, that was why AR-1 would have had to have been developed to undercut RD-180 and Merlin 1C(!) long ago, which would have caused a drop in the then Aerojet revenues for a half decade, but then that risk might have paid off in a broad base (big assumption that you could get many rival LV providers to eat the same dog food). Then you could have had a different story. Note the similarities/risks - you have to do it before things like booster reuse actually happen.

My bet is AJR will talk a great deal about low cost RL10, after losing Vulcan to BE4. But they'll never commit. ULA will continue to use RL10. After getting Vulcan to the point where its a reliable bidder on national launch contracts, they'll see how much commercial they can snag with a lower cost US engine - if its significant, they'll phase over Centaur to  a new engine (if they know this in advance, they'll likely do a block purchase). RL10 will join J2-2X, RS-25E, RS-68 and a long list of others. AJR will become a government contractor with limited munitions related businesses, and will gradually fade away.

Offline Chasm

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Were there any AR1 announcements lately? I can't remember any.

As far as the future of RL10 goes I really wonder why ACES requires more tank pressure than Common Centuar to prevent engine cavitation. To the point that they increased wall thickness for both ACES and Centaur V. Unless I'm missing something obvious adding engines should not change that.

Online john smith 19

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More of a decision for AJR than a decision for ULA.

Unlike the past, ULA is getting to the point where it has more options. The pivot point appears to be the down selection of engine providers for Vulcan. (Were AR-1 to be selected, Vulcan would in effect become an even more narrower (because of expectation of flight frequency) platform than Atlas V.) If BO carries through with timely qualification of BE-4 for Vulcan, we may see a much broader platform than previously described.

The original point of AR-1 was missed. Does AJR want to narrow its options still further? It's really easy and seductive to follow the old game plan of using Congress to proffer more contracts to keep the old space masters alive. But when there's too much new, and the old ones can't play the new game, at some point this becomes ... risky.

It's always been necessary to reorient the firm, just like ULA, to have a greater revenue base through commercial contracts to offset likely "shrinkage" in govt contracts. An AR1 contact to supplant SLS solids, while causing a hit eventually to NG/OA, won't breath much life into AJR. And in the interim Centaur 3/5 use of RL10 at high price, more than the booster engine, might be tolerable ... but its long term viability is in doubt. If AJR only sells infrequently flown engines on govt HSF vehicles, it becomes a single customer company whose fortunes might be tied to a single LV that's 20x more costly with 2-3 alternatives that might replace it?
WRT to this thread title the question is what happens to the AR-1 if ULA decides it is not suitable for the Vulcan?

Does it go on the shelf awaiting someone who needs a large US built Kerolox engine at almost any price?
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Offline Space Ghost 1962

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Answered upthread. They get lobbyists to insist on its use as "Advanced boosters for SLS" in LRE to displace the solids, which were abandoned politically earlier. (Which does have a sensible point, as it did then, because the solids limit the performance of SLS, and get you much of Block 2 performance, at a political cost.)

But this would be a desperate gamble. And before its brought up, AR-1 is too expensive for use on Antares to displace the RD-181's.

I suppose Congress could write a law banning non indigenous LRE's.

Online john smith 19

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Answered upthread. They get lobbyists to insist on its use as "Advanced boosters for SLS" in LRE to displace the solids, which were abandoned politically earlier. (Which does have a sensible point, as it did then, because the solids limit the performance of SLS, and get you much of Block 2 performance, at a political cost.)

But this would be a desperate gamble. And before its brought up, AR-1 is too expensive for use on Antares to displace the RD-181's.

I suppose Congress could write a law banning non indigenous LRE's.
Well the lobbyists would write it, then they'd hand it to some representative to put on the list of work to do.

I know it's just BAU in the Big Aerospace arena, but I've never liked the sound of corporate executives whining for a handout.   :(

"Our technology is so precious yet no one will buy the engines we make"
So in fact your technology is not  as precious as you think it is, but you want the USG to bank roll you anyway.

If it's that good, yet the profit margin is that poor the smart move would seem to be for AJR to parcel up the company assets and auction them off to find out what they are really worth.

I found it very telling that when ULA and AJR (or whatever it was called then) had the same corporate parent and ULA was shopping for an RL10 replacement they went to XCOR to develop it.
« Last Edit: 11/12/2017 09:45 PM by john smith 19 »
BFS. The worlds first Methane fueled FFORSC engined CFRP structured A380 sized aerospaceplane tail sitter capable of flying in Earth and Mars atmospheres. BFR. The worlds biggest Methane fueled FFORSC engined CFRP structured booster for BFS. First flight to Mars by end of 2022. Forward looking statements. T&C apply. Believe no one. Run your own numbers. So, you are going to Mars to start a better life? Picture it in your mind. Now say what it is out loud.

Offline A_M_Swallow

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{snip}

I found it very telling that when ULA and AJR (or whatever it was called then) had the same corporate parent and ULA was shopping for an RL10 replacement they went to XCOR to develop it.

Equals can negotiate. Where one side has a boss man with the rank to fire the other side the group ends up doing what he says. This may not be good for the project.

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