Report: Blue Origin Wins Engine Contract for ULA’s Vulcan Booster

BE-4 staged combustion testing (Credit: Blue Origin)

The Wall Street Journal reports that Blue Origin has won a contract from United Launch Alliance to supply BE-4 engines for United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan launch vehicle. An announcement is expected today.

The decision would be a defeat for Aerojet Rocketdyne, which has been developing the AR1 engine.

The long-term, potentially multibillion-dollar agreement could provide a boost to Blue Origin’s eventual goal of becoming a major military launch provider itself. The company plans to use the same engines to power its own heavy-lift launcher, called New Glenn, which is currently under development.

Competition in the satellite-launch business is heating up. The Air Force is considering how to divvy up hundreds of millions of federal dollars to develop a fleet of lower-cost, more versatile rockets. Blue Origin, United Launch, Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. and Northrop Grumman Corp.’s Innovation Systems unit, formerly known as Orbital ATK, are all in the running. The Air Force is preparing to shortly announce the first-stage winners….

Negotiations between United Launch and Blue Origin dragged on for months, with both sides bargaining hard over price, delivery schedules and production reliability. Other hurdles, according to two people familiar with the details, included United Launch’s concerns about relying on a prospective rival for its most important engine supply. It couldn’t be learned what provisions were hammered out.

Blue Origin beat out Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings Inc., which had sought to sell its AR1 engine as the primary propulsion system for the Vulcan. A spokesman for Aerojet, which previously was picked to provide smaller, upper-stage engines for the ULA rocket, said “we are committed” to the AR1 engine and “will have a test-ready engine in 2019.” The spokesman also said that regardless of the decision, Aerojet’s “liquid engine business is thriving,” and the AR1 remains an option for possible smaller launch vehicles on the drawing board.

Aerojet Rocketdyne Completes CDR on AR1 Engine

AR-1 engine (Credit: Aerojet Rockettdyne)

LOS ANGELES, May 08, 2017 (Aerojet Rocketdyne PR) — Aerojet Rocketdyne, a subsidiary of Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings, Inc. (NYSE:AJRD), successfully completed its Critical Design Review (CDR) for AR1, a 500,000 lbf thrust-class, liquid-fueled rocket engine.

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ULA Leaning Toward BE-4 Engine for Vulcan as Crucial Engine Tests Loom

BE-4 staged combustion testing (Credit: Blue Origin)

In what is likely a surprise to no one, United Launch Alliance’s CEO said this week the company is leaning toward selecting Blue Origin’s BE-4 engine in the first stage of its new Vulcan rocket — providing upcoming engine tests go well.

That would leave rival Aerojet Rocketdyne and its AR1 engine without a booster to fly on.

In an interview during the 33rd Space Symposium here, Tory Bruno said that tests of the BE-4 engine, scheduled to begin “very soon” at Blue Origin’s test site in West Texas, are the last major hurdle the engine must clear before ULA decides to use it on Vulcan.
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Aerojet Rocketdyne’s AR1 Engine Sets U.S. Record

Staged-combustion testing at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi for the AR1 program is being developed by Aerojet Rocketdyne. (Credit: Aerojet Rocketdyne)

STENNIS SPACE CENTER, Miss., (Aerojet Rocketdyne PR) – Aerojet Rocketdyne, a subsidiary of Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings, Inc. (NYSE:AJRD), recently demonstrated the highest chamber pressure of any United States produced liquid oxygen and kerosene main combustion system. This milestone occurred during a series of successful test firings of the AR1’s staged combustion system at NASA’s Stennis Space Center.

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AFRL Technology Demonstration Program Gives Boost to AR1 Engine

Hydrocarbon Boost Sub-Scale Oxygen Rich Preburner Test at AFRL. (Credit: Aerojet Rocketdyne)
Hydrocarbon Boost Sub-Scale Oxygen Rich Preburner Test at AFRL. (Credit: Aerojet Rocketdyne)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Aerojet Rocketdyne PR) — Aerojet Rocketdyne, a subsidiary of Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings, Inc. (NYSE:AJRD), successfully completed its final test series on its sub-scale oxygen rich preburner as part of the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Hydrocarbon Boost Technology Demonstrator (HBTD) program. Aerojet Rocketdyne tested the preburner at full power and full duration to provide key insights for future engines that use this engine cycle.

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AR1 Engine Undergoes Testing at NASA Stennis

Aerojet Rocketdyne tests the AR1 subscale preburner at NASA's Stennis Space Center. (Credit: Aerojet Rocketdyne)
Aerojet Rocketdyne tests the AR1 subscale preburner at NASA’s Stennis Space Center. (Credit: Aerojet Rocketdyne)

SACRAMENTO, Calif., June 17, 2016 (Aerojet Rocketdyne PR) – Aerojet Rocketdyne, a subsidiary of Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: AJRD), achieved full-power during a critical preburner test series at NASA’s Stennis Space Center earlier this month. The test series successfully verified key preburner injector design parameters for the company’s AR1 engine that is being designed to end use of Russian engines for national security space launches.

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Aerojet Rocketdyne Completes Key Design Milestone for AR1 Engine

AR1 engine (Credit: Aerojet Rocketdyne)
AR1 engine (Credit: Aerojet Rocketdyne)

SACRAMENTO, Calif., Dec. 17, 2015 (Aerojet Rocketdyne PR) – Aerojet Rocketdyne, a subsidiary of Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: AJRD), announced it completed a key design milestone for its AR1 rocket engine this week. AR1 is an American-made engine that is being developed as a direct replacement for the Russian-made RD-180 engines that currently power launches of the majority of national security satellites to orbit for the U.S. government.

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Aerojet Rocketdyne, NASA Stennis Sign Agreement for AR1 Engine Testing

Aerojet Rocketdyne recently conducted hot-fire testing of a multi-element preburner injector for the AR1 rocket engine. A similar multi-element injector built using additive manufacturing will be hot-fire tested this spring. (Credit: Aerojet Rocketdyne)
Aerojet Rocketdyne recently conducted hot-fire testing of a multi-element preburner injector for the AR1 rocket engine. A similar multi-element injector built using additive manufacturing will be hot-fire tested this spring. (Credit: Aerojet Rocketdyne)

SACRAMENTO, Calif., June 16, 2015 (Aerojet Rocketdyne PR) — Aerojet Rocketdyne and NASA Stennis Space Center signed a Space Act Agreement for test services and test stand support of the AR1 multi-element pre-burner and main injector. Currently in development by Aerojet Rocketdyne, the AR1 engine is a replacement for the Russian-made RD-180 engines that power the Atlas V launch vehicle. This agreement builds on the current assembly and testing of the company’s RS-68 and RS-25 engines at NASA Stennis.

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Aerojet Rocketdyne Tests AR1 Additive Manufacturing Engine Components

AR1_test20150316
Aerojet Rocketdyne recently completed hot-fire testing of a single-element main injector for the AR1 rocket engine that was completely built using additive manufacturing. (Credit: Aerojet Rocketdyne)

SACRAMENTO, Calif., March 16, 2015 (Aerojet Rocketdyne PR) – Aerojet Rocketdyne, a GenCorp (NYSE:GY) company, has recently completed a successful series of hot-fire tests of key additively manufactured components for its AR1 booster engine at its Sacramento test facility. The testing of the main injector elements represents another important milestone in the development of the AR1 engine and the company’s commitment to having a certified engine in production in 2019.

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Aerojet Rocketdyne Established Advanced Propulsion Office in Huntsville

aerojet_rocketdyne
HUNTSVILLE, Ala., Sept. 16, 2014 (Aerojet Rocketdyne PR) —
Aerojet Rocketdyne, a GenCorp (NYSE:GY) company, announced today the establishment of the company’s Advanced Hydrocarbon Propulsion Development Office (AHPDO) in Huntsville, Alabama.

The facility will focus on delivering a 21st century advanced hydrocarbon rocket engine to the nation and the integration of the company’s ongoing hydrocarbon technology and development efforts. This development work will include the AR1 advanced large hydrocarbon rocket engine, the NASA Advanced Booster Engineering Demonstration Risk Reduction program, the U.S. Air Force Hydrocarbon Boost Technology Development program, along with internal Aerojet Rocketdyne research and development involving the company’s Bantam Engine family for lower thrust applications.

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