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Air Force awards Ursa Major rocket engine development contact

The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) has awarded the rocket engine startup Ursa Major a contract to develop two different rocket engines.

Under the contract, the Colorado-based firm will build and test a prototype of its new Draper engine for hypersonics, and further develop its 200,000-pound thrust Arroway engine for space launch.

…Under the AFRL contract, for which neither the lab or company provided a value, Ursa Major will also build a dedicated test stand for Draper and plans to hotfire the engine within 12 months.

Arroway, on the other hand, is a reusable liquid oxygen and methane staged combustion engine for medium and heavy launch vehicles. Ursa Major first announced development the 200,000-pound thrust engine last August, explaining that when clustered together, Arroway engines could replace the Russian-made RD-180 and RD-181, which are no longer available to US launch firms.

According to Ursa Major’s press release, the AFRL contract will allow further development of Arroway with a hotfire expected in 2025.

Ursa Major already has several contracts for its smaller Hadley engine, from the rocket startups Phantom, Vector, Astra, and the Air Force, and has built more than a hundred so far. The Arroway meanwhile is being developed as an American replacement for the Russian engines used by Northrop Grumman in its Antares rocket.

All in all, it appears Ursa Major is becoming a major challenger to Aerojet Rocketdyne, which in recent years had a lock on most government contracts for rocket engines. That lock resulted in very expensive engines that took years to build. The government (and others) are now finding someone else to provide this service at a better cost and far more quickly. We shall see whether Aerojet Rocketdyne responds to this competition properly, or goes the way of the horse carriage.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.

The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News

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