Capitalism in space: Firefly has agreed to purchase Aerojet Rocketdyne’s AR-1 engine to use in it larger Beta rocket, presently under development.
Though deal also includes help from Aerojet for the development of Firefly’s smaller Alpha rocket,
…the companies made clear that the centerpiece of the agreement was the potential use of the AR1 on Firefly’s Beta rocket, giving Aerojet a customer for the engine while allowing Firefly to increase the performance of the medium-class rocket.
Beta is intended to fill the niche once served by ULA’s Delta 2. “It has left an opportunity for a modern launcher to come in at perhaps a better price point than Delta 2, and can address some of the new missions coming out,” such as small geostationary orbit satellites, he said.
The target payload capacity of Beta is eight metric tons to low Earth orbit, a size Markusic explained was driven by the market and which, in turn, led to a design change for the rocket. Beta’s original design resembled the Alpha but with two additional first stages as side boosters, a triple-core design like the Delta 4 Heavy or Falcon Heavy. Beta is now a single-core vehicle with an AR1 engine in its first stage.
Aerojet Rocketdyne had gotten a lot of Congressional money to develop the AR-1 with the intent it would be used in ULA’s Vulcan rocket. ULA has instead chosen Blue Origin’s BE-4 engine, leaving Aerojet Rocketdyne high and dry without any customers. This deal might save that company, while making Firefly more competitive and robust. Moreover, because of all that money from Congress, Aerojet has probably been able to offer the engine at cut-rate prices.
A smart deal all around.
From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.
Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.
The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.
He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.
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