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Transportation The Military United States Politics

Air Force Requests Info For Replacement Atlas 5 Engine 108

schwit1 (797399) writes The U.S. Air Force on Thursday issued a request for information from industry for the replacement of the Russian-made engines used by ULA's Atlas 5 rocket: "Companies are being asked to respond by Sept. 19 to 35 questions. Among them: "What solution would you recommend to replace the capability currently provided by the RD-180 engine?" Air Force officials have told Congress they only have a broad idea of how to replace the RD-180. Estimates of the investment in money and time necessary to field an American-built alternative vary widely. Congress, meanwhile, is preparing bills that would fund a full-scale engine development program starting next year; the White House is advocating a more deliberate approach that begins with an examination of applicable technologies. In the request for information, the Air Force says it is open to a variety of options including an RD-180 facsimile, a new design, and alternative configurations featuring multiple engines, and even a brand new rocket. The Air Force is also trying to decide on the best acquisition approach. Options include a traditional acquisition or a shared investment as part of a public-private partnership. [emphasis mine]"

The Atlas 5 is built by Lockheed Martin. This is really their problem, not the Air Force or ULA. In addition, the Air Force has other options, both from Boeing's Delta rocket family as well as SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket.
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Air Force Requests Info For Replacement Atlas 5 Engine

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  • Re:Fuck Lockheed (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 24, 2014 @12:08AM (#47740315)

    Sorry about posting AC. Technically, Pratt and Whitney was supposed to (and is licensed to) produce the RD-180 in the US. But it seems that P&W continued to source from Russia instead of tooling up and building locally.

    Here's a wiki link (not to be confused with wiki-leaks)

    I hope that helps frame the question better.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 24, 2014 @12:39AM (#47740409)
    Both are acceptable herpity derp derp. []
  • Re:Raptor? (Score:4, Informative)

    by clovis ( 4684 ) on Sunday August 24, 2014 @01:26AM (#47740553)

    You know that the bureaucrats eventually "won" in Rome, right?

    Rome collapsed under the weight of its complacent, entrenched bureaucracy. After Marcus Aurelius, every subsequent Caesar had less ability to change the trajectory of the Empire thanks to the political realities imposed by the bureaucracy. They had to act within the constraints of the previously established bureaucracies. Did you know that eventually Roman bureaucrats granted themselves military ranks? Bureaucrats also chose the last of the Western Emperors.

    Bureaucracy is a cancer.

    Attributing the fall of the Roman empire to a single cause is just plain wrong.

  • Re:Makers! (Score:5, Informative)

    by catchblue22 ( 1004569 ) on Sunday August 24, 2014 @01:30AM (#47740577) Homepage

    What "rocket engine" is 3D printed?

    The nozzle for the Superdraco engine [] is 3d printed. The alloy is too hard to machine, so 3D printing is the only practical way of manufacturing them. It will be the landing thruster for the propulsive landing Dragonfly crew vehicle. It will land with the accuracy of a helicopter. Here is a video [] of it being cycled through its various thrust levels. Very cool.

  • by poodlediagram ( 1944244 ) on Sunday August 24, 2014 @02:51AM (#47740707)
    That's right: the RD-180 is based on the four chamber RD-170 which began development in the early 1970's.

    These Soviet engines rocket were more efficient than their US counterparts. The reason is that they used an oxgen-rich preburner, as opposed to the US engines (including the space shuttle's) which were fuel rich.

    Thus there was a flow of superheated oxygen passing through the preburner and then through the turbine to power the turbo pumps. It turned out that no existing steel could withstand this and so the engineers spent years finding a steel alloy which could. The US never did so, and went fuel-rich instead.

    To clone this would take a lot of R&D into devloping these steels and learing to machine them. Although in the 1980's so-called 'superalloys' were developed which are not steel (nickel-cobalt for example) and could do the job. These are used in the extreme conditions of modern jet engines and also have to withstand superheated oxygen.

    This is just one example of the problems involved in building and testing a cloned engine: it would take many years to get it into production. It's possible this information request is just to shake the Russians up a bit.
  • Re:Fuck Lockheed (Score:4, Informative)

    by dunkelfalke ( 91624 ) on Sunday August 24, 2014 @04:18AM (#47740853)

    In this case, the engine was not only cheaper but also better.

"An organization dries up if you don't challenge it with growth." -- Mark Shepherd, former President and CEO of Texas Instruments