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The competition heats up? NASA has awarded Aerojet Rocketdyne a $1.4 billion contract to restart production on the space shuttle engines, with the intent to use those engines for its hoped-for missions beyond Earth orbit using the Space Launch System (SLS).
Normally I am thrilled when an American company gets a contract to build rocket engines, but here I have my doubts. This contract will only produce deep space engines if Congress gives NASA the money to fly SLS on deep space missions. Right now, Congress has only given NASA just enough money to fly one, maybe two SLS missions, with the second not coming until 2024 at the earliest. My impression of this contract award thus is that it is not to produce engines, but to keep Aerojet Rocketdyne from going bust, since no one else has been interested recently in buying their engines. In other words, it is pork, government money handed out in order to keep the people who work for Aerojet employed.
This is not the way to become a space-faring society. Better Aerojet Rocketdyne goes bust and the good engineers that work for it find jobs with companies making products that people want. Then, the government money can be spent wisely on things that we will eventually want and use, instead of make-work projects that accomplish nothing.