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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:Raptor? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Sarten-X ( 1102295 ) on Sunday August 24, 2014 @12:33AM (#47740397) Homepage

    They do. but they're not an authorized contractor. and the paper work takes years.
    welcome to stupid government.

    I've done government work. The bulk of required paperwork is a full accounting of absolutely everything being billed to the government. Every minute worked by every employee must be logged, and every expense must be justified. It's all an attempt to reduce the chance of defrauding the government, and indirectly the taxpayers.

    Yes, current contractors charge a lot, but despite outside opinion, they can justify every expense. Sure, an efficiency-loving Congress could cut out the paperwork, but that opens the door for any company with a promise of a product to overcharge. At least they could scam the government efficiently.

  • by donscarletti ( 569232 ) on Sunday August 24, 2014 @01:00AM (#47740481)

    Let's just copy the RD180. I doubt it has any patent ecumberances.

    They've already licensed the damn thing for domestic production from the beginning and had a good decade where they could have set up their own factory and had the Russians come in and willingly ensure they are being produced correctly and fix any detail not conveyed properly on the plans. In fact, I believe that the RD-180 is more of a work-for-hire specifically commissioned for Lockheed's requirements.

    Now everything is sour and steps to remedy it look political, rather than just a way of giving jobs for American blue collar labour, which is how it would have appeared before.

    The RD-180 is a good engine that provides staged combustion performance and efficiency at similar cost to American gas generator cycle engines. The only problems with it is that it was really hard to design, which is irrelevant when you have the plans anyway. It would be a shame for NIH syndrome to screw up America's capability to launch satellites.

  • Re:Raptor? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by stoploss ( 2842505 ) on Sunday August 24, 2014 @03:16AM (#47740753)

    I'm not attributing it to a single cause anymore than one can attribute death by cancer to any specific individual cell.

    The very establishment of the Principate held the seeds of its own demise, but that's like saying the ultimate cause of death is being born. The legal fictions chosen in order to establish the Augustan Principate allowed Augustus to have a fig leaf to cover his dictatorial powers while still styling himself "mere" Princeps ("First Citizen") had unintended consequences. He technically did NOT consolidate all the power into a single office; he technically didnt even abolish the traditional system of appointments. The legal fiction was that all these mechanisms were still in place, it's just that Augustus held all the top offices. Imagine if we had a President who was also Chief Justice, Speaker of the House, President of the Senate, etc, and everyone else in Congress and the Supreme Court was afraid to cross him.

    You can see that executing responsibilities of all those offices is a lot of work. The last Caesar to bust his ass trying to discharge the responsibilities of all those offices was Marcus Aurelius. Commodus couldn't be fucking bothered, as he wanted to play games. However, instead of allowing that office to revert to the pre-principate form he started layering on bureaucracy. To revert to the Republican system would be to release power, and technically he was still in control of what the bureaucracy did.

    Bureaucracies never die without killing their host as well. Bureaucrats love their sinecures, power, and income and will fight to keep them. Therefore, delegating power turned into a ratchet effect.

    Over the centuries, the ratchet clicked many times and layers upon layers of bureaucracy formed. This is a heavy toll on an economy, and taxes rose to match. Of course, the Romans never really came up with a good taxation system (c.f. tax farming).

    Reforms under Severus, Constantine, Diocletian, et al, were adjustments within a fixed range of trajectory. As the Western Empire got closer to the end, reforms could only adjust the trajectory in a small way... much like you can't cut out cancer that has metastasized to vital organs.

    All this contributed massively to undermine the ability of the Empire to adapt as well as diminishing the value to the individual of being part of the Roman "Commonwealth". If you're a taxpayer who is funding this massive bureaucracy and you can't perceive all this expense is to your net benefit, how hard are you going to fight to keep the barbarians away?

    If a patient with metastatic cancer dies of pneumonia, what killed him?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 24, 2014 @04:52AM (#47740897)

    The "Atlas V" is not really an "Atlas" at all nor should it be numbered "V" and the whole thing is an anti-American crony-capitalist play. Let me explain:

    The "Atlas" rockets which gained fame both as ballistic missiles and as the launch vehicle that put John Glenn in orbit were designed and built by Americans at the Convair plan in Kearny Mesa California (northern portion of greater San Diego). The modern "Atlas" is NOT a direct descendant (EVERYTHING about it is different except for the fuel and LOX) and is NOT designed and built by the men who designed and built the real Atlas (who were left behind along with the Kearny Mesa facilities). It's made by different peopple at a different LockMart facility and with Russian Engines (CLEARLY no ties to the American "Atlas") and was only named "Atlas V" as a marketing gimmick (The next production Atlas WAS to be the "IV" but Boeing was rolling-out the "Delta IV" as a competitor at the time so the LockMart folks bumped the number to "V" as a marketing play).

    The "anti-American" part is BOTH because American rocket engine designers and builders were tossed-aside in favors of Russians to save money AND because it put a critical bit of US Government capability in a spot of vulnerability to the VERY SAME RUSSIA that LockMart uses as a big threat that makes the American Taxpayer NEED the uber-expensive over-budget, behind-schedule, under-performing, super-turkey F-35 jet... which LockMart makes, (of course).

    The "crony" part is because Boeing and LockMart were allowed to merge their launch business into ULA (creating a total monopoly on US launch vehicles) to "save the tax payers money" but instead with a monpoly costs have skyrocketed (as though ANYBODY couldn't see THAT coming!). As part of the current "cozy" relationship between the federal government and the guys it pays to lauch payloads, the government shovels about a BILLION dollars per year for "assured access to space"..... NOT for any launches, which it buys on top of this fee. Now that SpaceX and Orbital are operating new launch vehicles (which are NOT part of the profitable ULA monopoly) and Russia is becoming more of a problem. the supply of engines for Faux-Atlas are threatened nobody at NASA or the USAF or LockMart are talking about "assured access" and the billions payed-out by taxpayers for it. A new engine is needed for Faux-Atlas and, like bad Wall St bankers, the so-called "commercial" entity does not want to spend the money to bail itself out of the spot that it put itself into; it is demanding a bailout and its "good friends" in government (some of whom, no-doubt, want to move from government careers to second careers in industry) are eager to bail it out (in the interests of "national security", of course). What commercial company wouldn't love to get billions of dollars to buy new components so it could better compete againsts competitors who are not getting that free money? If the taxpayer is forced to buy LockMart a new engine for its Faux-Atlas, then to keep things fair, the taxpayers should also buy new engines for Boeing, SpaceX, Orbital, and Blue Origin (and why not Virgin Galactic and StratoLaunch too while we're at it?>>)

    LockMart should be left alone (just as the Wall St Bankers should have been) and when the supply of RD-180s runs out and they are unable to fly Faux-Atlas (and thereby unable to fulfull the launch contracts they locked-in with the US Government (the subject of the SpaceX lawsuit)), they should be driven into bankruptcy (just as the Wall St Bankers should have been) and their executives jailed for fraud (as the Wall St Bankers should have been). There was a STENCH to that Air Force "block buy" launch contract that was put in place just before SpaceX could get "certified" for USAF launches (by a process Lockmart never had to undergo) and it stinks MORE now that the feds are looking to buy LockMart an engine to help it fulfill that contract. The destruction of the giant defense contractor (like the collapse of the big Wall St Banks)

The moon may be smaller than Earth, but it's further away.