Aerojet’s confidence in Next Generation Engine and green propellants February 6th, 2012 by Chris Bergin
Californian aerospace company Aerojet believe they are in a good position to continue their advancements in the development of rocket engines, ranging fr om the Next Generation Engine (NGE) for the US Air Force’s Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program, through to environmentally “green” propellants for propulsion hardware.
Aerojet Engine Development:
While Aerojet are already involved in a wide range of propulsive requirements for launch vehicles and spacecraft, work is already well under way for their effort to become the provider of the Next Generation Engine (NGE), a process started via the Air Force’s Request For Information (RFI) over a year ago.
The RFI noted it was seeking an Upper Stage engine utilizing modern design and manufacturing methods, while it would be expected that the new engine will demonstrate state-of-the-art operating margin and reliability and minimize life-cycle costs, with an aim of replacing the RL-10 – which is used in various forms with Atlas’ Centaur Upper Stage (RL-10A-3) and Delta IV’s Upper Stage (RL-10B-2).
Aerojet recently noted they had successfully completed a major milestone in the development of a ground demonstrator for the Next Generation Engine (NGE) program, announcing the completion of the Preliminary Design Review (PDR) of the turbopump assembly.
The engine under development – which is yet to receive a name – would not be restricted to just US Air Force/EELV use, according to Julie Van Kleeck, Aerojet Vice President, Space & Launch System speaking in an interview with NASASpaceflight.com.
“For now we are assuming the RL-10 engine requirements with additional consideration of the requirements put forth in the AF September 2010 RFI. (Next Generation Engine (NGE) Request for Information; Solicitation Number: SMC10-55; Agency: Department of the Air Force; Office: Air Force Space Command; Location: SMC – Space and Missile Systems Center).
“We do believe this engine can serve future civil as well as Air Force needs.”
Aerojet – who previously noted it has been decades since there has been an open engine competition in the United States – added they are unable to compare their new engine to an RL-10 derivative at this stage. However, they are confident they can present their NGE as a major step forward.
“We don’t know many specifics about RL-10 derivatives since little has been made public. Aerojet believes that our offering for NGE will make major improvements over the current RL-10 in cost and reliability and have equal or greater performance depending on configuration,” added Ms Van Kleeck.
The Californian-based company are involved in a number of future engine projects, not least the advanced booster for the Space Launch System (SLS), but also in the field of environmentally “green” engines.
With experience in working with Hydroxylammonium nitrate or hydroxylamine nitrate (HAN) powered engines for uncrewed spacecraft, Aerojet noted they are also working on a nitrous-ethanol bipropellant system for Human Space Flight applications.
“While Aerojet has been developing HAN-based monopropellants for a wide range of applications since 1990, Human Spaceflight is not a current focus for this effort. For HSF, our current green propulsion focus is a nitrous-ethanol bipropellant system,” noted Ms Van Kleeck.
It has been publicly known that HAN is being developed as a potential propellant for launch vehicles, both in the solid form as a solid propellant oxidizer, and in the aqueous solution in monopropellant rockets.
According to technical papers – such as those associated with the US Department of Energy – it is typically bonded with glycidyl azide polymer (GAP), Hydroxyl-terminated polybutadiene (HTPB), or carboxy-terminated polybutadiene (CTPB). The catalyst is a noble metal, similar to the other monopropellants that use silver or palladium.
“For the HAN-monopropellant systems we are currently focused on robotic spacecraft and defense applications,” Ms Van Kleeck continued. “Aerojet has successfully tested HAN thrusters from 0.2 lbf up to 150 lbf and has found no lim itations to developing even higher thrust engines. When developing new, green propellants, one needs to consider both environmental and safety issues.
“For HSF, if green monopropellants become attractive, Aerojet believes that HAN is the leading green monopropellant candidate if you consider all of the safety and handling issues.”
As aforementioned, Ms Van Kleeck noted that Aerojet place a large amount of consideration on both the environmental and safety elements of their advanced propellants, not least their impact on humans, but also for the atmosphere of Mars.
“Aerojet has developed both monopropellant and bipropellant liquid rocket engines that utilize environmentally friendly propellants. Our monopropellant efforts include HAN based engines and Nitrous Oxide based engines. In the bipropellant arena, we have developed Nitrous-Ethanol, LOX/Methane, LOX/Hydrogen and LOX/Ethanol engines,” added Ms Van Kleeck.
“For interplanetary missions to Mars, NASA has chosen Aerojet’s monopropellant hydrazine thrusters for both cruise and landing for all Mars landers to date for the simple reason that hydrazine (N2H4) does not contain carbon.
“For all advanced propellants, both environmental and safety considerations are very important, and our selections are based on a balance of both of these critical factors. Insofar as toxicity to humans, we have done extensive work on our selected propellants and have found that they meet our requirements.
“Just as important, extensive testing has shown that our propellants are the safest to handle and use in typical test and operational settings.”
NASA's Goddard, Glenn Centers Look to Lift Space Astronomy out of the Fog 03.12.12
A fogbank is the least useful location for a telescope, yet today's space observatories effectively operate inside one. That's because Venus, Earth and Mars orbit within a vast dust cloud produced by comets and occasional collisions among asteroids. After the sun, this so-called zodiacal cloud is the solar system's most luminous feature, and its light has interfered with infrared, optical and ultraviolet observations made by every astronomical space mission to date.
"To put it simply, it has never been night for space astronomers," said Matthew Greenhouse, an astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. Light fr om zodiacal dust can be a thousand times brighter than the sources astronomers actually target, limiting sensitivity in much the same way that bright moonlight hampers ground-based observatories. The dust and its unwanted illumination are greatest in the plane of Earth's orbit, the same plane in which every space telescope operates.
Placing future astronomy missions on more tilted orbits would let spacecraft spend significant amounts of time above and below the thickest dust and thereby reduce its impact on observations. So Greenhouse teamed with Scott Benson at NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, to investigate how these "dark sky" or extra-zodiacal orbits might improve mission science and to develop a means of cost-effectively reaching them.
"Just by placing a space telescope on these inclined orbits, we can improve its sensitivity by a factor of two in the near-ultraviolet and by 13 times in the infrared," Greenhouse explained. "That's a breakthrough in science capability with absolutely no increase in the size of the telescope's mirror."
The Extra-Zodiacal Explorer (EZE) mission concept includes launch on a Falcon 9 rocket and a new solar-electric-propulsion upper stage that will enable realization of joint goals for NASA's Office of the Chief Technologist and Science Mission Directorate, with wide applicability across astrophysics and planetary science disciplines. The transfer stage would use NEXT ion engines powered by disk-shaped UltraFlex solar panels. (Image credit: NASA Goddard)
Greenhouse, Benson and the COllaborative Modeling and Parametric Assessment of Space Systems (COMPASS) study team at NASA Glenn designed a mission that utilizes new developments in solar arrays, electric propulsion and lower-cost expendable launch vehicles. Their proof-of-concept mission is the Extra-Zodiacal Explorer (EZE), a 1,500-pound EX-class observatory that could accommodate a telescope in the size range of the recently completed WISE mission — all within the cost and schedule constraints of NASA’s Explorer Program.
Launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, EZE would use a powerful new solar-electric drive as an upper stage to direct the spacecraft on a gravity-assist maneuver past Earth or Mars. This flyby would redirect the mission into an orbit inclined by as much as 30 degrees to Earth's.
The result, the scientists say, will be the highest-performance observatory ever achieved in the decades-long history of NASA's Explorer program.
"We see EZE as a game-changer, the first step on a new path for NASA Explorers that will yield major science goals despite lim ited resources," said Benson, who previously managed the new electric propulsion technology project.
Named NASA’s Evolutionary Xenon Thruster (NEXT), the engine is an improved type of ion drive. Using electric power supplied by solar panels, the NEXT engines operate by removing electrons from atoms of xenon gas, then accelerating the charged ions through an electric field to create thrust. While these types of engine provide much less thrust at any given time than traditional chemical rockets, they are much more fuel efficient and can operate for years.
A NEXT engine fires at full power in a test chamber at NASA's Glenn Research Center. At the time the image was taken, in December 2009, the thruster had operated continuously for more than 25,000 hours; it has now run for more than 40,000 hours. (Image credit: NASA Glenn)
Built by Aerojet, an aerospace company based in Sacramento, Calif., each 6.9-kilowatt NEXT engine delivers two and a half times the thrust of the NSTAR ion engines now flying on NASA's Dawn spacecraft.
"We've run one NEXT thruster for over 40,000 hours in ground testing, more than twice the thruster operating lifetime needed to deliver the EZE spacecraft to its extra-zodiacal orbit,” Benson explained. "This is mature technology that will enable much more cost-effective space missions across both the astrophysics and planetary science disciplines."
This sped-up video shows a test of a NEXT gimbal at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in October 2006. The gimbal's job is to raise the thruster out of its launch position and then point it to the direction commanded by a spacecraft. The gimbal moves the NEXT engine through the full range of thrust positions it can achieve. (Video credit: NASA JPL)
"Development of this solar-electric upper stage for Falcon 9, which the Goddard/Glenn EZE team is advocating, will make extra-zodiacal orbits available to any astronomer proposing to NASA's Explorer program. This will enable unprecedented science capability for astrophysics Explorers," Greenhouse said.
The EZE upper stage would carry two NEXT engines, their xenon gas propellant and two 18-foot-wide UltraFlex solar arrays built by Alliant Techsystems in Goleta, Calif. These arrays, which were originally developed for NASA's Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle, would see their first deep-space application with EZE. Once the spacecraft achieves the desired orbit, the transfer stage would separate and the science mission would begin.
Technicians at NASA's Glenn Research Center check out a prototype NEXT engine on Jan. 20, 2006, following its delivery by the thruster contractor, Aerojet Corp. (Image credit: NASA Glenn)
The Goddard/Glenn study also showed that the EZE mission concept could be the lowest-cost option for a planned flight demonstration of a high-power solar-electric propulsion stage. A standardized solar-electric upper stage for the Falcon 9 that can be used by any mission will set the small-payload Explorer program on a new path to achieve science goals that rival the capability of larger, more expensive systems.
"Undertaking a project like this will provide key flight experience toward developing the higher-power systems needed to enable NASA’s human exploration objectives in deep space while providing immediate scientific return on the investment," Greenhouse added.
Orbital Antares Team Conducts Another AJ26 Engine Test
The Orbital, Aerojet and NASA team conducted a successful test at the NASA Stennis Space Center in a firing of an AJ26 engine that had undergone hot fire testing previously. Among several objectives, the test allowed the team to collect additional engine data in advance of the planned Antares stage one hot fire test planned for later this summer at the Wallops Island, VA launch site in which the entire stage one core, with two AJ 26 engines, will be test fired. (NASA photo)[/size:ccb64b6b4d]
US Senator Mikulski Tours Wallops Island Facilities
Orbital personnel supported a visit by Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland on Monday, June 25, who was at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility during a oversight tour of the facility Sen. Mikulski toured the launch pad, which is fully built and is being certified as safe and fully functional by a team of NASA, Orbital and Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) representatives and was briefed on the progress being made toward completing the certification of the launch complex from which Orbital's cargo delivery mission to the International Space Station will originate. MARS is responsible for the construction and operation of the launch pad complex.
Orbital also briefed the Senator on the company's preparedness for carrying out a test launch of the Antares rocket and the demonstration cargo delivery mission to the International Space Station in the third and fourth quarters of 2012, respectively. These flight milestones will be the culmination of the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) joint research and development program that was initiated between NASA and Orbital in late 2008. (NASA photo)
Mon, 9 July, 2012 MSFC Director Goldman Leaving NASA for Aerojet By Dan Leone
WASHINGTON — Arthur “Gene” Goldman is leaving his post as director of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) in Huntsville, Ala., to become head of Southeast Space Operations for Aerojet effective Aug. 6, the Sacramento, Calif., rocket-engine maker said.
Aerojet announced Goldman’s hiring in a July 9 press release. A NASA press release said Goldman will leave the agency Aug. 3.
Robin Henderson, Marshall’s associate director, will succeed Goldman as director, NASA said in its release. Goldman had been with NASA since 1990. He joined the agency as a project engineer in Marshall’s space shuttle project integration office.
Goldman has been running Marshall since early March when then-director Robert Lightfoot left Huntsville for Washington to become NASA’s associate administrator, the agency’s highest ranking civil servant position.
The Marshall Space Flight Center has had a leading role in NASA rocket development since the beginning of the U.S. space program. It is currently managing design and development of the Space Launch System (SLS), the congressionally mandated heavy-lift rocket NASA plans to use for launching astronauts beyond Earth orbit.
Aerojet has been pushing for a bigger role in the SLS program. Last year, the company announced it was partnering with Huntsville-based Teledyne Brown to build liquid-rocket engines for customers including NASA.
NASA has so far announced two SLS flights, one in 2017 and one in 2021. In these missions, SLS will send the Lockheed Martin-built Orion capsule around the Moon and back. Only the second flight will be crewed. The SLS variant that will fly these missions will use existing hardware: five-segment solid boosters developed by Alliant Techsystems for the canceled Constellation program and leftover space shuttle main engines made by Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne.
Subsequent SLS configurations will require new boosters and more space shuttle main engines — SLS will not reuse its core engines. Julie Van Kleeck, Aerojet's vice president of space and launch systems, has said that Aerojet wants to provide both of these propulsion systems.
Mon, 23 July, 2012 Aerojet’s Parent Company Bids $550 Million for Rival Rocketdyne By Brian Berger
WASHINGTON — Aerojet parent company GenCorp. Inc. said July 23 that it has signed a definitive agreement to buy Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne from United Technologies Corp. for $550 million.
GenCorp intends to finance the acquisition of Aerojet’s chief liquid-propulsion rival with a combination of cash on hand and issuance of debt, the Sacramento, Calif., company said in a press release.
United Technologies Corp. has been looking to sell Canoga Park, Calif.-based Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne and other noncore businesses to help finance its purchase of Goodrich Corp.
Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne provides the main propulsion systems for the United Launch Alliance Atlas and Delta launch vehicles. The company also is under contract to provide the core engines for NASA’s Space Launch System heavy-lift rocket currently under development.
GenCorp Chief Executive Scott Seymour said buying Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne would nearly double the size of GenCorp’s propulsion business.
“We see great strategic value in this transaction for the country, our customers, partners supply base and our shareholders,” Seymour said in a statement. “The combined enterprise will be better positioned to compete in a dynamic, highly competitive marketplace, and provide more affordable products for our customers.”
GenCorp said it expects the deal to close in the first half of 2013, assuming federal regulators approve the deal.
NASA, Air Force Haggling Over Cost Sharing on Engine Project (Source: Space News)
Negotiations on a proposal in which NASA and the U.S. Air Force would jointly fund an Aerojet-led propulsion project that could pave the way for a U.S. alternative to the Russian-built RD-180 rocket engine are bogged down over cost sharing issues, according to government and industry officials.
The impasse centers on how much funding the Air Force would provide for tests Aerojet has proposed as part of a program aimed at upgrading NASA’s heavy-lift Space Launch System (SLS) crew and cargo rocket. Aerojet is one of four companies NASA sel ected in July to work on liquid- and solid-fueled booster concepts meant to improve SLS’s lift capacity and affordability.
Having set aside $200 million for a 30-month SLS Advanced Booster Engineering Demonstration and Risk Reduction effort, NASA signed contracts with ATK, Dynetics, and Northrop Grumman. The combined value of the awards is $137.3 million. Conspicuously absent fr om the mix was Aerojet, one of the three main U.S. rocket propulsion providers. NASA spokeswoman Jennifer Stanfield confirmed Oct. 26 that Aerojet’s Advanced Booster award was still in negotiations. (10/26)
Space News reports on the progress of a program that could lead to a replacement for Atlas V’s Russian-supplied first stage engine:
Negotiations on a proposal in which NASA and the U.S. Air Force would jointly fund an Aerojet-led propulsion project that could pave the way for a U.S. alternative to the Russian-built RD-180 rocket engine are bogged down over cost sharing issues, according to government and industry officials. The impasse centers on how much funding the Air Force would provide for tests Aerojet has proposed as part of a program aimed at upgrading NASA’s heavy-lift Space Launch System (SLS) crew and cargo rocket. Aerojet is one of four companies NASA sel ected in July to work on liquid- and solid-fueled booster concepts meant to improve SLS’s lift capacity and affordability. When it debuts in 2017, SLS will rely on a pair of five-segment solid-rocket boosters and a cluster of four RS-25 engines — both remnants of the retired space shuttle program — to haul 70 metric tons to orbit. NASA plans to eventually add advanced boosters and a new upper stage to increase SLS’s hauling capacity to 130 metric tons. Having set aside $200 million for a 30-month SLS Advanced Booster Engineering Demonstration and Risk Reduction effort, NASA announced Oct. 1 that it had signed contracts with Utah-based ATK Launch Systems; Huntsville, Ala.-based Dynetics; and Los Angeles-based Northrop Grumman Corp. The combined value of the awards is $137.3 million. Conspicuously absent fr om the mix was Sacramento, Calif.-based Aerojet, one of the three main U.S. rocket propulsion providers.
FTC Approves Aerojet-Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne Merger By Mike Gruss | Jun. 11, 2013
WASHINGTON — GenCorp Inc. is free to proceed with its $550 million acquisition of rocket engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne from United Technologies Corp. after the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) closed an investigation into whether the transaction would lead to an anti-competitive marketplace.
An FTC investigation had found the merger would give Sacramento, Calif.-based Aerojet, and its parent company GenCorp., a monopoly in liquid divert and altitude control systems, or LDACS, which are used for missile defense interceptors. Such an arrangement could lead to higher prices for the U.S. Defense Department, the FTC said.
In January, GenCorp said Aerojet planned to divest its LDACS business.
But in a June 6 letter, the Defense Department asked the FTC to allow the merger, claiming it could help space launch requirements and that the divestiture of the LDACS business would be “impossible due to highly unusual national security circumstances.”
Citing the Defense Department’s position, the FTC announced June 10 it had closed its investigation and would allow the merger to proceed unchallenged.
East Hartford, Conn.-based United Technologies Corp. and Aerojet announced the deal for Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne of Canoga Park, Calif., in July 2012. The merger will create a dominant U.S. supplier of liquid-fueled rocket engines in addition to in-space and missile propulsion systems.
Aerojet also is one of two U.S. suppliers of solid-rocket motors, the other being ATK Aerospace of Magna, Utah.
Antares First-stage Engines Available Long Term, Aerojet Rocketdyne Chief Says By Peter B. de Selding | Jun. 17, 2013
Aerojet Rocketdyne President Warren Boley. Credit: Aerojet Rocketdyne photo
LE BOURGET, France — The president of the newly formed Aerojet Rocketdyne propulsion provider on June 17 said the company has secured an agreement with the manufacturers of Russia’s NK-33 engine, which powers the U.S. Antares rocket’s first stage in a version called AJ-26, to assure its long-term supply. At a press briefing here during the Paris Air Show, Warren M. Boley Jr. said Antares prime contractor Orbital Sciences Corp. has only to sign a contract by this fall to assure that deliveries of the new engines can begin in 2016. Originally developed for the Soviet Union’s abandoned lunar program, the liquid oxygen- and kerosene-fueled NK-33 has been out of production since the 1970s. In an undated white paper making the rounds in Washington, Orbital says that after deciding to go with the NK-33/AJ-26 for Antares, the company “learned that the available AJ-26 inventory was more limited than had previously been thought due to technical issues, additional costs to make the engines flightworthy and Russian restrictions.” “The AJ-26 has been out of production for over 40 years and there are a finite and limited number of these engines remaining,” the Orbital white paper states. “There are enough of these engines to support Orbital’s [international space station] cargo resupply missions currently under contract and a limited number of additional missions. For Orbital to be a viable long-term competitor, it needs a long-term propulsion solution.” The questionable availability of the AJ-26 has been of such concern to Dulles, Va.-based Orbital that the company is asking the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to void, on antitrust grounds, the agreement that gives rocket maker United Launch Alliance (ULA) exclusive U.S. access to Russia’s RD-180 engine. Orbital wants to purchase RD-180 engines, calling them “the only currently viable long-term engine solution” for Antares, which successfully debuted in April. Boley disagreed. He said Aerojet has reached an agreement with NK-33 manufacturer Kuznetsov Design Bureau to restart motor production once Orbital gives the go-ahead. He did not disclose financial details, but gave the clear impression that the restarted production line, and the refurbishment of the 23 engines already purchased by Aerojet, would not represent an unwieldy spike in investment for Orbital and force the Antares prime contractor to seek the RD-180 as an alternative. With Aerojet’s $550 million acquisition of Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne now approved by U.S. antitrust regulators, the combined Aerojet Rocketdyne has an interest in both sides of the issue. The combined company is a joint-venture partner, with Energomash of Russia, in RD AMROSS, the company that supplies the RD-180 to ULA for the Atlas 5 rocket. Boley said he could imagine lots of reasons why ULA would have insisted on an exclusive arrangement with RD AMROSS given ULA’s investment in the RD-180. He did not issue an opinion on the arrangement. But Boley and Aerojet have a much closer understanding of Antares and the AJ-26 engine, which has been a cause of concern at Orbital as a result of corroded parts. Boley said it is only normal that an engine that was never meant to be stored long term shows signs of corrosion after 40 years. Boley said 43 NK-33 engines have been procured by Aerojet Rocketdyne. Twenty of them have been made ready for Orbital’s initial Antares missions, to deliver cargo to the international space station for NASA. Two AJ-26 engines are needed to power the Antares core stage. The remaining 23 have not yet been worked on, but making them ready for Antares, Boley said, does not present any financial or technical obstacles that Aerojet has not already encountered with the first 20 engines. “No one expected they would sit around for 40 years,” Boley said, adding that their condition is no worse than should be expected given the storage. “Through an overhaul and repair process we have addressed the corrosion.” Orbital officials were not immediately available for comment June 17.
Paris Air Show 2013. «Аэроджет Рокетдайн» представила гиперзвуковые технологии
18 июня 2013 г.
«Военный Паритет». Американская компания Aerojet Rocketdyne на прошлой неделе приобрела активы Gencorp, входившей в состав группы United Technologies на сумму 550 млн долл США, сообщает flightglobal.com 17 июня. Президент Aerojet Уоррен Боли (Warren Boley), выступая на Парижской авиакосмической выставке, заявил, что это может приблизить создание ракет с «ультравысокой скоростью полета».
К концу этого года компании Boeing и Raytheon с применением сверхзвуковых прямоточных воздушно-реактивных двигателей (СПВРД) создадут ракеты воздушного базирования со скоростью 4М. В конечно итоге будут созданы гиперзвуковые ракеты, способные поражать цели на земле и в воздухе, в том числе уничтожать противокорабельные ракеты, угрожающие американским военным кораблям. Такие ракеты поступят на вооружение каждого американского истребителя, предсказывает Боли. По его мнению, перспективы продаж гиперзвуковых ракет будут просто «лучезарными».
«США находятся в точке развития, где скорость либо дополнит или заменит стелс-технологии», говорит Боли, и добавляет, что «скорость 4М это все равно что скорострельный пулемет по отношению к винтовке Винчестера». Перспективы гиперзвуковых технологий были продемонстрированы в полете демонстратора Х-51, что открывает возможности создания авиалайнеров со скоростью полета 6М, о котором так долго мечтали провидцы.
Боли уверен, что недолго осталось до того момента, когда авиалайнер потратит всего два часа, чтобы долететь от Парижа до Сиднея. Ракеты со скоростью 4М должны сначала выйти на начальную сверхзвуковую скорость, чтобы затем включить СПВРД, а включение гиперзвукового ПВРД возможно только после достижения скорости 4М. «Это реальная возможность», говорит Боли.
Слияние компаний Aerojet Rocketdyne и Gencorp позволит сэкономить на разработках 1 млрд долл в течение 10 лет, начиная с 2016 года. В перспективе Aerojet Rocketdyne может предложить полный пакет гиперзвуковых технологий для перспективных космических двигателей и ракетных систем ПРО, говорит Боли.
Two engine rivals merge into Aerojet Rocketdyne BY SPACEFLIGHT NOW Posted: June 18, 2013
Two commercial suppliers of rocket power in the U.S. have completed their merger and "launched" into business under the new banner Aerojet Rocketydyne, promising the government it will reduce costs.
Credit: Pat Corkery/United Launch Alliance
GenCorp Inc. announced last July it has signed a definitive agreement to purchase Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne from its parent United Technologies Corp. for $550 million. GenCorp, headquartered in Sacramento, Calif., also owns Aerojet. Buying PWR meant the firm would combine the two primary producers of rocket engines in the U.S., with customers including United Launch Alliance and Orbital Sciences.
As part of the acquisition, the new company has pledged to save the government $100 million per year. "We know that bringing these two companies together we can do that. We are willing to stand up and be counted on that," said Warren Boley, president and CEO of Aerojet Rocketdyne. PWR produced the venerable RL10 cryogenic upper stage engines for the Atlas 5 and Delta 4 booster fleets, oversaw the U.S. element of the RD-180 first stage program for Atlas, built the RS-68 and RS-68A powerplants for Delta 4, made the RS-27A engines on the Delta 2 and produced the space shuttle main engines for decades. It has been developing the J-2X for NASA's future heavy-lift vehicle. Retirement of the space shuttle was a hard hit to Rocketdyne, which merged into Pratt & Whitney. The inventory of leftover shuttle main engines are earmarked for use on the Space Launch System mega-rocket in the future. Aerojet makes the monolithic solid rocket motors for Atlas 5, refurbishes the Soviet-era N-1 moonrocket engines into the AJ-26 for Orbital Sciences' new Antares vehicle, and also produced the Delta 2 second stage engine and a host of maneuvering thrusters across the industry. The new company will continue to provide the primary products for United Launch Alliance's Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles and develop the RL10-C, a common upper stage engine. Boley said it would be a few more months before Aerojet Rocketdyne receives Russian government approval for assume its new stake in RD AMROSS, which is the U.S. arrangement for selling the RD-180 engine to the Atlas 5 rocket. "The addition of Rocketdyne almost doubles the size of our company and provides additional growth opportunities as we build upon the complementary capabilities of each legacy company, including their talented people and innovative technologies," said GenCorp President and CEO Scott Seymour. "Combined, we bring decades of history that launched the first space age and put mission-critical technology into the hands of our warfighters," Seymour continued. "Our vision for the future is a shared one. We have the best workforce in the industry and we are committed to 100% safety and mission success as we continue to deliver performance, drive innovation and create opportunity. We will continue to be a leader in the next space age." Aerojet Rocketdyne is under contract to deliver 20 of the AJ-26 engines to Orbital Sciences to power the Antares rocket, which successfully made its first test flight in April. It will be used, at least initially, to perform commercial resupply missions to the International Space Station. Boley said his firm has 43 engines in its possession for refurbishment and modifications to make them flyable on the Antares rocket, with another dozen in Russia. Each launch uses two engines on the main stage. Built in the 1960s and 1970s, the engines have been in warehouse storage for decades, requiring them to be overhauled before use. The Russian producer intends to restart manufacturing the engine from scratch, which would extend the availability starting in late 2016. Aerojet has received a contract spelling out the pricing and schedule for the new-production engines, pending Orbital's approval, Boley said. But Orbital has been looking at the RD-180 as a longer-term option for the Antares as it hopes to gain a footing in the medium-class launch market. That has caused wrangling over the Atlas 5's exclusivity of using the engine and the Federal Trade Commission has launched an investigation. "Should, for whatever reason, (Orbital) want to change engines, not the conversation you are usually having after your first successful launch, but should they chose to change engines there will be options," Boley said. Once Aerojet Rocketdyne gets its 50 percent stake in RD AMROSS, would the company want to sell the RD-180 to Orbital? "That needs to be done in the context of what ULA thinks they own, what intellectual property they have. There are other (Russian) products that RD AMROSS has the U.S. marketing rights to that in my opinion makes the Antares vehicle very attractive," Boley said. "If we stay focused on the customer and respect everyone's intellectual property we're going to be okay."
Aerojet, Kuznetsov To Restart NK-33 Rocket Motor Production
By Amy Butler email@example.com, Frank Morring, Jr. firstname.lastname@example.org Source: AWIN First
June 18, 2013 Credit: NASA
The newly formed Aerojet Rocketdyne is crafting a plan with the Russian Kuznetsov Design Bureau to restart production of the NK-33 rocket engine to assuage concerns from NASA that enough propulsion systems will be available for missions planned to resupply the International Space Station.
NK-33s overhauled by Aerojet, designated the AJ-26, are used to power Orbital Sciences’ new Antares medium-lift rocket for upcoming NASA Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) missions; Orbital also is trying to re-ignite a market for smaller military satellites by offering the Antares as an alterative to building large satellites for use exclusively on the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles managed by the United Launch Alliance. NASA is requiring that Orbital use an engine in production to power the Antares, and the NK-33 has long been out of production. Aerojet previously purchased 43 of the NK-33 engines from Kuznetsov to overhaul into AJ-26s as needed for missions.
Under its CRS-1 contract with NASA, Aerojet is overhauling 20 NK-33s for use on Antares. The motors have experienced stress and corrosion, which are addressed through the overhaul process.
At issue is concern from NASA that there may not be enough suitable engines to support CRS-2, which would require 20 more.
NASA, however, has requested that Orbital seek a production source for its Antares propulsion system. Aerojet Rocketdyne President Warren Boley is in talks with Kuznetsov to begin delivering new NK-33s in late 2016, he told reporters during a June 17 roundtable at the Paris air show. The total production rate depends on the demand for Antares, but Boley says it is likely to be at least 4-6 engines annually.
The strategy is to use the new engines for deliveries to Antares and use the remaining 23 engines requiring overhaul as a “buffer” if problems arise in restarting the production process, Boley says.
A signed deal with Orbital is needed in the fall to begin deliveries in late 2016.
Meanwhile, Orbital Sciences could use the Russian RD-180 engine, but it is currently sold exclusively in the American market to the United Launch Alliance for use on the Atlas V Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle.
Sparked by Orbital’s complaints, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission is investigating whether ULA’s exclusive arrangement with the Russian RD Amross, a U.S.-Russian joint venture crafted for sale of the RD-180, violates U.S. antitrust laws.
Boley says another option for Orbital would be to purchase another product made by RD-180 maker NPO Energomash, such as the RD-191. The RD-191 is the propulsion system used by Russia’s Angara rocket.
In a conference call with reporters June 18, Boley said the Russian government has not cleared the new U.S. company for the joint venture with Energomash, calling government approval the “long pole in the tent.” He expects approval in the coming months as part of a “second phase of this acquisition.”
Kuznetsov is willing to restart the NK-33 line to give Orbital a production source of existing engines for the Antares, he says, so the antitrust issue with ULA on the RD-180 could go away.
ESP Tapped to Supply Thrusters for COSMIC-2 By Warren Ferster | Jun. 21, 2013
WASHINGTON — European Space Propulsion (ESP), a division of U.S. propulsion provider Aerojet Rocketdyne, will supply hydrazine thrusters for six small satellites being built by Britain’s Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. for the U.S.-Taiwan COSMIC-2 weather mission, the newly created ESP announced June 21.
The contract, financial terms of which were not disclosed, includes options to equip an additional six satellites, ESP said in a press release. The contract was awarded by Surrey and is the first for ESP of Belfast, Ireland, the press release said.
COSMIC-2 is a planned constellation of 12 satellites that will monitor weather conditions based on atmospheric distortion of GPS navigation signals. The first six satellites are slated to launch in 2015 aboard a demonstration flight on Space Exploration Technologies Corp.’s Falcon Heavy rocket, but funding prospects for the second batch of satellites are uncertain.
The ESP thrusters are based on a flight-proven design originally developed by Aerojet Rocket for NASA’s Voyager deep-space probes, the press release said.
“ESP represents a new competitive force in the European arena,” Aerojet Rocketdyne President Warren M. Boley said in a prepared statement. “It will maintain a strong European identity while leveraging Aerojet Rocketdyne’s seven-decade legacy of propulsion performance. International collaboration, which is fundamental to ESP’s approach, will lower costs and enhance customer support.”
Michael Gazarik, NASA associate administrator for space technology, holds up a model thruster at the GPIM press conference with an inset of the flight demonstration configuration. Credit: NASA photo by Carla Cioffi (main) and Aerojet Rocketdyne image (inset).
A NASA-backed project to demonstrate a safer and more efficient propellant for in-space propulsion is on track for launch in 2015 following a key ground test proving a small rocket thruster could burn the green fuel for about as long as what would be needed for an operational mission. “We got the data we needed. We’re continuing to do a little more testing now, but we’re ready for our flight design,” said Roger Myers, executive director for advanced propulsion at Aerojet Rocketdyne, which is developing the technology for Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., NASA’s prime contractor for the Green Propellant Infusion Mission (GPIM). GPIM is intended to demonstrate an alternative to highly toxic hydrazine that is safer to handle, less expensive and more efficient for use on satellites. Green propellants like AF-M315E have been around for decades but their higher operating temperatures complicate engine operations. About two years ago, Aerojet developed a new catalyst that resolved the problem, leading NASA to commit about $42 million for the GPIM flight demonstration. “Up until that time we were talking about 10 seconds of firing timing before the engine would decay,” GPIM lead scientist Christopher McLean, with Ball Aerospace, told reporters July 9. The team recently completed a thruster pulsing test culminating in 11 hours of continuous firing, paving the way for a critical design review before the end of the year. The flight demonstration will showcase two thrusters — a 1 Newton and a 22 Newton type — that have the largest share of the market. They will be integrated into a Ball Aerospace satellite and launched as a secondary payload aboard a Space Exploration Technologies’ Falcon Heavy rocket flying the U.S. Air Force’s Space Test Program-2 mission. The Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center’s Space Development and Test Directorate told SpaceNews in June that the launch is scheduled for September 2015. During GPIM’s planned 81-day flight, the thrusters will be fired to simulate a spacecraft’s typical modes of operation in orbit and during re-entry into the atmosphere. While NASA and the Air Force are interested in the green fuel technology for their own missions, the real target for GPIM is the commercial market. “In today’s world you can not — and do not — want to load a spacecraft with hydrazine and ship it. The dangers are just too great. You can do that now with this propellant. That really changes the game of how we do spacecraft processing and get it to the launch site,” said Michael Gazarik, NASA’s associate administrator for space technology. “If you get this stuff on your hands, you wash it off. It’s not going to kill you,” McLean added. “I wouldn’t want to drink it, however, the lethal dose on this is pretty good especially compared to the fuels we’ve been using.” Tests show the green fuel AF-M315E boost performance by 50 percent over hydrazine and is less expensive, though much of the cost savings would stem from simpler ground processing, storage and handling. AF-M315E was developed by the Air Force Research Laboratory, which is a partner in the project.
Development of U.S. Closed-loop Kerolox Engine Stuck in 2nd Gear
By Dan Leone | Jul. 12, 2013
WASHINGTON — In the past decade and a half, every U.S. agency that operates spacecraft has come to depend on one particular style of Russian-designed, kerosene-fueled rocket engine, made by former Soviet design bureaus and sold to U.S. companies for use on American rockets. This international supply chain, forged in the late 1990s to bring NPO Energomash’s RD-180 to U.S. shores for Lockheed Martin’s Atlas 3, has bridged gaps between former Cold War rivals and produced rockets so reliable that the U.S. military buys them in bulk. NASA, likewise, has turned to that engine to launch one-of-a-kind science spacecraft, operational weather satellites and a planned eight cargo delivery missions to the international space station.
The buy-international model works so well that even an executive with the company working on an American alternative to the RD-180 — which has powered 43 flawless space launches since it made its U.S. debut on Lockheed Martin’s Atlas 3 rocket in 2000 — does not see much urgency on anyone’s part to bring such an engine to market. “We don’t see a good business case for a pure commercial development of one of these engines,” Julie Van Kleeck, vice president of space programs at Sacramento, Calif.-based Aerojet Rocketdyne, told SpaceNews in a July 9 phone interview. “Not today.” Nor is the government in a hurry to put up the funds, Van Kleeck said. But it was, once. In 2010, the Obama administration said it wanted to make development of a 1 million pound-thrust, closed-loop kerosene-fueled engine a national priority. However, Congress preferred a new rocket based on shuttle-derived systems, and the White House had to compromise. Thanks to Soviet-era advances in metallurgy and combustion stability, Russian-style closed-loop kerosene engines are the best of the breed for liquid-fueled first stages. They run hotter and more efficiently than the configuration used, for example, by Space Exploration Technologies Corp., which in 2006 became the only U.S. company in decades to fly a kerosene-fueled engine it built from scratch. “The closed-loop combustion cycle is more efficient in that it yields about 15 [percent to] 20 percent greater thrust than the open-loop cycle for the same amount of propellant flow,” said Dale Thomas, associate technical director at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., and head of the nearby National Institute for Rocket Propulsion Systems. Put another way, “it allows the [rocket] stage designer to pack more energy into a smaller package,” Greg Pech, director of the engines, motors integration and product delivery team at United Launch Alliance (ULA) of Denver, said in a July 9 email. That alone is not a game-changer, Pech said, but such engines would make bulk orders cheaper, compared with the price of ULA’s Delta 4, the company’s all-American alternative to Atlas 5. ULA is still buying imported RD-180s from a company called RD Amross, a joint venture of NPO Energomash and United Technology Corp., former parent company of Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne. RD Amross was not conveyed to Aerojet as part of its June 13 takeover of Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne. Testing, 1 ... 2 ... In 2007, the Air Force Research Laboratory gave Aerojet a $110 million contract for preliminary work on an advanced hydrocarbon booster engine, which the service said should be capable of generating up to 1 million pounds of thrust — a little more than the RD-180 generates at sea level. Van Kleeck said Aerojet Rocketdyne will leverage some of the work it did for the Air Force to develop a 500,000 pound-thrust, closed-loop kerosene engine that could be used as a side-mounted booster for the Space Launch System (SLS) NASA is working on. Competition for the side-mounted boosters would not begin until 2015 or 2016 — around the time Aerojet is scheduled to test-fire the new engine, according to Thomas. The first SLS flight that needs new boosters, meanwhile, would not be until the mid-2020s. Launches scheduled for 2017 and 2021 would use shuttle-derived solid-fuel boosters for raw power off the pad. If Aerojet Rocketdyne brings its new engine into production, it could have a customer waiting in Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va., which is looking for an alternative to the AJ-26 engines Aerojet sold it for the first 10 flights of the Antares medium-lift rocket — the vehicle at the heart of Orbital’s eight-flight, $1.9 billion space station cargo delivery contract with NASA. The AJ-26 is a refurbished, upgraded version of the kerosene-fueled NK-33 engine developed for a failed Soviet Moon rocket called N1, and Orbital is concerned that the remaining stockpile of refurbishable NK-33s is too small to depend upon long term. As a replacement, the RD-180 is high on Orbital’s list. So high, in fact, that the company in June sued ULA for restricting the commercial sale of the engine. Currently, ULA is the sole U.S. buyer of RD-180 engines under an exclusivity agreement that one of its parent companies, Lockheed Martin, secured in 1997 as a condition of funding the RD-180’s development in Russia.
NASA, Industry Test Additively Manufactured Rocket Engine Injector
Posted by Doug Messier
on July 13, 2013, at 10:10 am in News
Liquid oxygen/gaseous hydrogen rocket injector assembly built using additive manufacturing technology is hot-fire tested at NASA Glenn Research Center’s Rocket Combustion Laboratory in Cleveland. (Credit: NASA Glenn Research Center)
CLEVELAND, July 11, 2013 (NASA PR) – NASA and Aerojet Rocketdyne of West Palm Beach, Fla., recently finished testing a rocket engine injector made through additive manufacturing, or 3-D printing. This space technology demonstration may lead to more efficient manufacturing of rocket engines, saving American companies time and money. NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland conducted the successful tests for Aerojet Rocketdyne through a non-reimbursable Space Act Agreement. A series of firings of a liquid oxygen and gaseous hydrogen rocket injector assembly demonstrated the ability to design, manufacture and test a highly critical rocket engine component using selective laser melting manufacturing technology. Aerojet Rocketdyne designed and fabricated the injector by a method that employs high-powered laser beams to melt and fuse fine metallic powders into three dimensional structures. “NASA recognizes that on Earth and potentially in space, additive manufacturing can be game-changing for new mission opportunities, significantly reducing production time and cost by ‘printing’ tools, engine parts or even entire spacecraft,” said Michael Gazarik, NASA’s associate administrator for space technology in Washington. “3-D manufacturing offers opportunities to optimize the fit, form and delivery systems of materials that will enable our space missions while directly benefiting American businesses here on Earth.” This type of injector manufactured with traditional processes would take more than a year to make but with these new processes it can be produced in less than four months, with a 70 percent reduction in cost. “Rocket engine components are complex machined pieces that require significant labor and time to produce. The injector is one of the most expensive components of an engine,” said Tyler Hickman, who led the testing at Glenn. Aerojet Rocketdyne’s additive manufacturing program manager, Jeff Haynes, said the injector represents a significant advancement in application of additive manufacturing, most often used to make simple brackets and other less critical hardware. “The injector is the heart of a rocket engine and represents a large portion of the resulting cost of these systems. Today, we have the results of a fully additive manufactured rocket injector with a demonstration in a relevant environment,” he said. Glenn and Aerojet Rocketdyne partnered on the project with the Air Force Research Laboratory at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. At the Air Force lab, a unique high-pressure facility provided pre-test data early in the program to give insight into the spray patterns of additively manufactured injector elements. “Hot fire testing the injector as part of a rocket engine is a significant accomplishment in maturing additive manufacturing for use in rocket engines,” said Carol Tolbert, manager of the Manufacturing Innovation Project at Glenn. “These successful tests let us know that we are ready to move on to demonstrate the feasibility of developing full-size, additively manufactured parts.” For more information about Aerojet Rocketdyne, visit: http://www.rocket.com For information about NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/glenn For more information about the Air Force Research Laboratory, visit: http://www.afrl.af.mil The Manufacturing Innovation Project is supported by the Game Changing Technology Program in NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, which is innovating, developing, testing and flying hardware for use in NASA’s future missions. For more information about NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/spacetech