Congress micromanages rocket development at ULA

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Corrupt Congress: Even though ULA favors Blue Origin’s BE-4 engine for its Vulcan rocket, various elected officials in Alabama are pushing the company to use Aeroject Rocketdyne’s AR-4 engine instead.

At the end of February, two US representatives, Mike Rogers of Alabama [Republican] and Mac Thornberry of Texas [Republican], decided to push a little harder. On February 28, they sent a letter to Lisa Disbrow, the acting secretary of the US Air Force, and James MacStravic, who is performing the duties of the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics. In addition to reiterating a desire that ULA continue to fly a second rocket, the Delta IV Heavy, the letter urges the Pentagon officials to be skeptical about the BE-4 engine.

“The United States Government (USG) must have a hands-on, decision-making role… in any decision made by United Launch Alliance to down-select engines on its proposed Vulcan space launch system, especially where one of the technologies is unproven at the required size and power,” the letter states. “If ULA plans on requesting hundreds of millions of dollars from the USG for development of its launch vehicle and associated infrastructure, then it is not only appropriate but required that the USG have a significant role in the decision-making concerning the vehicle.” The letter then goes on to say the Air Force should not give any additional funding to ULA, other than for current launch vehicles, until the company provides “full access, oversight of, and approval rights over decision-making” in its choice of contractors for the engines on Vulcan.

The article also mentions porkmaster Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama), who also favors Aerojet Rocketdyne because they say they will build it in Alabama. Note also that these elected officials are not only trying to pick the winner in the private competition between these two rocket engines, they also want to force ULA to keep using the Delta rocket, even though it is very expensive and not competitive with the newer rockets being developed by other companies. And their only reason for doing so is because they provide jobs for their districts.

This one story illustrates perfectly the corruption that permeates both parties in Congress. While it is more likely that Democrats will play this pork game, there are plenty of corrupt Republicans who play it as well. These petty dictators all think they have the right to interfere in the private efforts of Americans, whether it involves building a new rocket or buying health insurance. And all we get from this is a poorer nation and a bankrupt federal government.



  • Des

    I agree that Congress trying to pick the rocket to use in Vulcan is a very bad idea. ULA should be allowed to pick the rocket that gives them the best performance at the best price. It is not a completely private rocket though. The air force has committed up to $201 million funding for Vulcan ( and it is likely ULA will look for more.

  • wayne

    Mike Rogers has a Conservative Review Liberty Score of 54%, and Mac Thornberry is at 48%.

  • Orion314

    WE ALL , must lose this idea that the federal government works for us, or that they respect the USC, or the rule of law. The federal gummint is nothing short of an organized crime ring. As an honorably discharged USAF vet with a TS clearance , I say this with a great deal of sad consideration. I fear our own USG far more than any terrorist , ISIS , or any other bogeyman you can name.
    if HRC isn’t a fine example of my point, I don’t know what else is…

  • Edward

    Unfortunately, some members of Congress consider themselves to be, literally, rocket engineers. They chose design specifications for the SLS rather than let the NASA customer or the rocket designers choose them. These include the fuel to be used for SLS’s first stage as well as the payload capabilities.

    Now these delusional “rocket scientists” want to choose which rocket engine our national security will depend upon.

    The worst part is that this is yet another example of Congress choosing central control over free market choices. Rather than ULA choosing the engine that is best for its own customers, members of Congress are demanding to choose what is best for themselves.

    Thus, Orion314 is correct. They are not working for us but for themselves, and selling out our national security for their own job security is an easy concept for their unethical minds to ponder.

    When we have central control, the decisions are not made for the benefit of the local user but for the benefit of the controller, thus we get what the central control committee wants, not what we want.

    If Congress gets control over the decision for the engine, then it is yet another setback for the fledgling, free market, commercial space industry and another breath of life for the overbearing, slow, non-productive, expensive government-controlled space industry. It will show that Congress will micromanage ULA right out of business, just as they are on the verge of entering the NewSpace commercial market with an innovative great vision for a prosperous future. (7 minutes, “ULA CisLunar 1000) (Yet another video that I link too often)

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