Aerojet Rocketdyne lobbies its rocket engines to Congress and ULA

The competition heats up: Officials at Aerojet Rocketdyne yesterday lobbied hard for Congress and ULA to finance and buy their new AR-1 engine, designed to replace the Russian engines used in the Atlas 5 rocket.

More here, including the threat by those officials that the development of the engine could slip past 2019 if Congress doesn’t give the company more money.

The first comment at the bottom of the page of the first article above I think possibly outlines some of the reasons behind Aerojet Rocketdyne’s bid to buy ULA.

The development of the Blue Origin BE-4 is underway, and a launch vehicle like the proposed Vulcan would certainly be an asset to national security and commercial space development. But, as was stated, such a LNG/LO2 vehicle would need a different infrastructure to support it. ULA’s Atlas V is the most mature and reliable [launch vehicle] we have. The problem with it is a political one, because of its using the Russian RD-180 engine. From what has been published, plugging the BE-4 into an Atlas V is a non-starter; the BE-4 is meant for the Vulcan…if ULA can obtain funding on something more than a per-quarter schedule! Aerojet-Rocketdyne’s AR-1 would be a more logical choice to replace the RD-180, BUT…ULA won’t release the Interface Control Documents (ICD’s) to Aerojet-Rocketdyne. Hence, AR’s attempt to buy ULA.

ULA and Blue Origin sign new agreement

The competition heats up: ULA and Blue Origin have signed a new agreement expanding the production of Blue Origin’s BE-4 engine for ULA’s new Vulcan rocket.

This agreement and the timing of its announcement, one day after news leaked that rocket engine manufacturer Aerojet Rocketdyne is making a bid to buy ULA, suggest that there are people in ULA that want to make sure the agreements with Blue Origin are set in stone should the purchase comes true.

Aerojet Rocketdyne makes $2 billion offer to buy ULA

The competition heats up: Rocket engine-maker Aerojet Rocketdyne has reportedly made a $2 billion offer to buy the rocket company United Launch Alliance (ULA), a partnership of Boeing and Lockheed.

If this deal goes through, it will put the squeeze on Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin, which presently has a contract to build rocket engines for ULA. Aerojet Rocketdyne had wanted that contract and had lost out. If they buy ULA, they could then kick Blue Origin out and take on the contract themselves.

I am honestly not sure what to make of this whole thing, however. It could be that Aerojet, having lost a number of contracts and faced with a significant lose in business, has decided it needs to become a rocket company to survive. It could also be that the corporate heads of ULA have decided that the company’s effort to replace its Delta and Atlas rockets with Vulcan is too risky, and they are better off taking the cash and running.

Or it could be any number of other reasons. We shall have to wait and see how this plays out.

Aerojet Rocketdyne faces the possible loss of most of its business

In the heat of competition: Because of a combination of increased competition, launch failures, political decisions, and quality control questions, the rocket company Aerojet Rocketdyne could lose almost all of its rocket customers in the next few years.

Link fixed! (Once again caused by trying to post while sitting in the passenger seat of the car and typing on a tiny tablet.)

Aerojet Rocketdyne to cut costs and streamline operations

The competition heats up: In renaming itself from GenCorp to Aerojet Rocketdyne, the company also announced today a four year program to cut costs and reduce its workforce by 10%.

It appears that most of the cuts will come from upper management, which suggests the company has identified fat it needs to get rid of in order to compete effectively in the re-energized aerospace industry.

Aerojet Rocketdyne says it can replace the Russian rocket engines used by American rockets for $20 to $25 million per engine.

The competition heats up: Aerojet Rocketdyne says it can replace the Russian rocket engines used by American rockets for $20 to $25 million per engine.

Including legacy systems and various risk-reduction projects, Aerojet Rocketdyne has spent roughly $300 million working on technologies that will feed into the AR-1, Seymour said during a June 3 roundtable with Aviation Week editors. The effort to build a new, 500,000-lb. thrust liquid oxygen/kerosene propulsion system would take about four years from contract award and cost roughly $800 million to $1 billion. Such an engine is eyed for United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Atlas V rocket as well as Orbital’s Antares and, possibly, Space Exploration Technology’s Falcon 9 v1.1.

This is roughly the same price cited for the cost of standing up U.S. co-production of the RD-180 engine, which is manufactured by NPO Energomash of Russia and sold to ULA for the Atlas V through a joint venture with Pratt & Whitney.

Unfortunately, this announcement is part of a lobbying effort to get Congress to fund the new engine rather than a commitment by Aerojet to build it themselves. Thus, I fully expect them to go over budget and for the engine to cost significantly more once in production, facts that will make it less competitive in the future.

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