Aerojet Rocketdyne [AJRD] and United Launch Alliance (ULA) brass will meet in February to gauge Aerojet Rocketdyne’s progress on its AR1 engine that the company is marketing as a drop in replacement for the politically-beleaguered Russian RD-180 engine.
Aerojet Rocketdyne President and CEO Eileen Drake said Jan. 12 the company passed a preliminary design review (PDR) for the AR1 in December and anticipates a critical design review (CDR) taking place by the end of 2016. In addition to marketing AR1 as a drop in replacement for the RD-180 on ULA’s Atlas V rocket, Aerojet Rocketdyne is also competing with Blue Origin’s BE-4 engine to serve as the first stage on ULA’s next-generation Vulcan rocket. Drake said she expects this downselect to also take place by the end of 2016.
Drake also said Aerojet Rocketdyne is in negotiations with ULA on how its RL10 engine will lead into ULA’s Advanced Cryogenic Evolved Stage (ACES). ACES will debut as Vulcan’s next-generation upper stage in 2023 and will be able to execute almost unlimited burns, extending on-orbit operating time from hours to weeks, ULA said last April when it announced Vulcan. Until 2023, Vulcan will feature the Centaur as its upper stage.
Drake detailed Aerojet Rockedyne’s goals for 2016 during a Washington Space Business Roundtable (WSBR) presentation in Washington. Aerojet Rocketdyne, she said, will make considerable progress with AR1, will test fire the first RS-68 engine for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) and will deliver the first additively-manufactured part for the Lockheed Martin [LMT]-developed Orion spacecraft that will launch on SLS. Aerojet Rocketdyne spokesman Glenn Mahone said Jan. 12 the company will provide nozzle extensions for Orion’s crew module reaction control system in the second quarter of 2016.
Aerojet Rocketdyne is developing a new family of additively manufactured engines called the Bantam family to serve smaller class rockets. Drake said she didn’t want to detail who the company is working with on Bantam, or who its customers are, but she said Aerojet Rocketdyne is focusing on reducing cost “from start to finish” in Bantam. Drake said Bantam is “more or less” in the development stage.
Drake said Aerojet Rocketdyne’s advanced Rocket Shop is tackling the company’s work on hypersonics, Triple Target Terminator (T-3) and the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD). She equated Rocket Shop to Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works division that Lockheed Martin said created advanced technology solutions in conceptual design, systems engineering and integration, complex project management, software development and rapid prototyping. Drake said Rocket Shop is a set-aside organization with its own building to keep the “ingenuity and creativity.”
Drake said she was surprised in 2015 when Aerojet Rocketdyne lost to Orbital ATK [OA] in a competition to supply ULA with first stage boosters on its future Atlas V and Vulcan. Aerojet Rocketdyne currently supplies the AJ-60 to ULA that serves as Atlas V strap-on boosters. Drake said the company’s AJ-60 contract with ULA runs through 2018. Orbital ATK is investing in the design, development and qualification of two new rocket motors with design similarities to each other that leverage the company’s solid motor technology. These motors will also be commercially available to support other customers.
ULA is a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing [BA].