Aviation Week & Space Technology

Podcast: The Race to Develop New Rocket Engines

Apr 07, 2017

The United Launch Alliance is close to choosing an engine for its Vulcan rocket between Blue Origin’s BE-4 and Aerojet Rocketdyne’s AR-1. Meanwhile Orbital ATK is pitching a solid rocket motor for the Air Force’s Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle launch system. Aviation Week editors have the details.

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Discuss this Video 5

on Apr 11, 2017

Guys.

These podcasts ought to be GREAT. What's not to like? Interesting subjects and informed guests. A world-class and respected publisher (that would be you, AW).

But they are awful, almost unlistenable: poor equipment, junior high school audio, and participants that seem blind-sided by the simplest questions. They sound like doing the podcast is a dreaded chore to check off at the end of the day. At the end of a long and tiring day.

Too many 'uh' and 'um' to even count. Background racket. Participants unfamiliar with the concept of satellite delay. That's just the beginning.

So, how about cleaning things up a bit? The pieces are all there. Your editors are interesting. They are smart. They are informed. They go to interesting places and they have a lot to say.

Find someone to host who can actually get them to talk about their passion. Design a consistent format with a consistent time-frame. Do a pre-interview to find out what participants know and are likely to say.

You know. Hire a professional?

on Apr 21, 2017

msadesign gets it spot on. These videos are an embarrassing diversion from a long history of fine technical journalism. Please have these folks spend their time writing, that is something they have been good at.

on Apr 23, 2017

So a few minutes in the reporter says Blue Origin isn't sure how they'll fix BE-4 combustion instabilities once they fire it up. All component testing so far, and the turbopump case is likely to be replaced. Should be exciting when they fire that beast up.

OTOH, SpaceX is working on the Raptor full flow staged combustion engine under a USAF funding contract, allegedly for an F9/FH upper stage. Delivery at the end of 2018.

Raptor has been on the test stand since September 2016, and mid-March Musk said something about an ITS update in a few weeks. Raptor should be part of that, so perhaps more news and another hot fire video.

Can't imagine them not leveraging Raptor in a Gen II methane "Falcon" once it's ready. Wider core, bigger fairing for bulk SpaceX data-sat constellation launches, non-conjunction Mars logistics etc. Seems it would be tempting.

on Apr 26, 2017

The bias ULA has for the BE-4 is most likely based on cost and potential reusability. Aerojet Rocketdyne has never produced a rocket engine that was inexpensive. ULA is in a life and death struggle with SpaceX and cost matters. If the BE-4 can be shown to be reliable and at a lower cost it is going to get the contract.

The other factor is SpaceX is working for flying rockets like aircraft. They fly, they refuel and fly again. The AR-1 is not being advertised as having any reusable potential. The BE-4 has been designed to be used many times.

If ULA picks the AR-1 it would be a death sentence.

on Apr 26, 2017

I might add, the Podcast made note that combustion instability on a methane engine is unknown territory. That may be true for Blue Origin but it doesn't seem to be the case for SpaceX. The Raptor methane engine of SpaceX was successfully tested as a full up assembly after a remarkably short development time.

Computational fluid dynamics for rocket design simulation has traditionally been a "bridge too far." Combustion instability was resolved by the trial and error approach of baffle plate and nozzle design placement and modification.

SpaceX apparently has made a quantum improvement with combustion modeling. Their innovative techniques are most likely proprietary but the fundamentals were outlined a few years ago by Adam Lichtl and Stephen Jones of SpaceX that can be seen on a You Tube video that Aviation Week will not let me link here.

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