ULA Blames SpaceX for Rocket Engine Spat

ULA Blames SpaceX for Rocket Engine Spat

A Lockheed Martin Corp.-Boeing Co. joint venture is blaming start-up rocket-maker SpaceX for the growing imbroglio between the U.S. and Russia over rocket engines, GPS satellites and even missions to the International Space Station.

Dmitry Rogozin, Russia’s deputy prime minister, in a post on his Twitter account Tuesday indicated that Russia plans to stop supplying the U.S. with its RD-180 rocket engine, which is used to launch military and spy satellites for the Defense Department.

The engine is made by the Russian company NPO Energomash and used by the Lockheed-Boeing joint venture, known as United Launch Alliance LLC, as a first-stage engine on its Atlas V rocket as part of the Air Force’s Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program.


“Russia is ready to continue deliveries of RD-180 engines to the US only under the guarantee that they won’t be used in the interests of the Pentagon,” Rogozin tweeted.

He also wrote that Russia “doesn’t plan to continue cooperation” with the U.S. on the International Space Station after 2020 — four years earlier than planned — and that it would deactivate sites of the U.S.-managed GPS system in the country.

The messages were viewed as retaliation against U.S. sanctions levied in response to Russia’s invasion and subsequent annexation of the Ukraine’s Crimea earlier this year. Rogozin, who heads up the country’s defense and space industries, was on a list of Russian officials targeted in March by the White House for economic sanctions.

While the Lockheed-Boeing joint venture said it wasn’t aware of any restrictions on sales of the RD-180, it put fault for the spat squarely on SpaceX, which has repeatedly raised objections to the U.S.‘s reliance on Russia for access to space in its quest to compete in the military market.

“United Launch Alliance (ULA) and our NPO Energomash supplier in Russia are not aware of any restrictions,” the joint venture said in a statement. “However, if recent news reports are accurate, it affirms that SpaceX’s irresponsible actions have created unnecessary distractions, threatened U.S. military satellite operations, and undermined our future relationship with the International Space Station.”

SpaceX has sued the Air Force to open more of its launches to competition. A judge in the case issued a temporary injunction preventing the U.S. government from buying the Russian engine, though later lifted the order after federal agencies certified the payments didn’t violate sanctions against Rogozin.

The U.S. has enough RD-180 engines to supply launches into 2016, Air Force Deputy Undersecretary Eric Fanning has said.

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This finger-pointing will fool no one. What is irresponsible is ULA’s decade-long complacency towards its dependence on Russian rockets.

Its the Russian rocket engine they use, because its more efficient than US engines. For the first stage it could mean the difference between the payload into orbit you want or maybe 3 or 4 launches.
Its likely the russsians have patents on their design so there is a rock(et) and a hard place here.

This is insane. You mean to tell me that we were able to put men on the moon way way way way back in the 1960’s and now we can’t even build rocket engines any more and that we are TOTALLY dependent upon the Russians. Some one needs to get sacked for even suggesting that we have to buy Russian engines.

I guess that what happens to you try to outsource everything to save money, you end with no skills, no industry base, no jobs and no economy.

What a cluster****. My country, that put men on the Moon and robots on Mars, are beholden to a nation ruled by gangsters. And the blame is on American leadership.

You have hit the nail on the head.

What happened was there was a decision by some in the government after the fall of the USSR to fund the Russian space program so its rocket engineers wouldn’t go to places we didn’t want. This meant we let our own abilities atrophy while fully funding their space program.

United leach alliance is THE poster boy for military contactor lazyness and incompetence. Can’t even build a rocket engine, the number ONE and TWO defense contractors of the world. They TOGETHER can’t build such a simple thing. And they blame SPACEX for sanctions? Did they forget that when the US puts sanctions in place against Russia, that they have the RIGHT to do so in return? It’s not Iran people, who can be sanctioned at will. Or North Korea. A big part in getting the contractors off their lazy behinds is immediately breaking up this unhealthy monopoly. At least let SpaceX compete. They have a chance to put their money where their mouth is. And no, I’m no fanboy of Elon Musk. But sometimes the old guard needs to be burned at the door.

This is the crude and painful truth.

Will someone explain to me why we are not making our own rocket engines?

The low demand for US made solid rocket propellant is also driving up the replacement costs for SLBM and ICBM, and eventually those will need replacement.

We are. The Boeing Delta IV uses American engines — but it can’t lift as heavy a load as the Lockheed Atlas V. The Delta IV Heavy can, but it’s made by duct-taping three Delta IV cores together side-by-side, so guess how much more it costs?

And the SpaceX Falcon 9 is all American-made, and cheaper, and can lift more, but they’re upsetting an established middleman, so they aren’t being allowed to succeed.

Finance capitalism. It’s cheaper to outsource manufacturing bits to other countries that bid lower. Then investors profit more and CEO’s get richer. Plus American manufacturing base gets weaker and we become dependent on “global trade”. It’s happening throughout US economy, thanks to the WTO it’s now our food supply.

The tax structure in the US sets up the wrong economic incentives. We put some of our highest taxes on employment, and some of our lowest taxes on the consumption of consumer goods, most of which are imported. And this is while we suffer trade imbalance and excessive unemployement.

And there is a substantial amount tax money that could be placed on stock trading, which is essentially tax-free.

Typical Obama administration tactic Blame everyone one else not themselves

I can’t see how. The USAF was never going to use the Ares rockets for their satellite launches in the first place. Frankly, after the fiasco of the Shuttle there’s been no love lost between the two.

Not sure why this guy thinks that Boeing is part of the Obama administration, guess it’s the ODS kicking in again.

Does anyone think that Congress cutting NASA budget had anything to do with this situation?

And the lack of skills, industry base, and economy go a lot farther than just rockets. Hell, the last decent airplane design we had was the F-23, and it was outsourced.

It makes you wonder which is more deranged, blaming Obama for everything or blaming SpaceX. Of course, they could always blame congress.

Pretty sure that the YF-23 was designed by Northrop and McDonnell, two American firms, and used American engines, too.

How long have I and others that work in the defense industry been telling you that the whole defense industry is just a hollowed out shell? There’s nothing there. These companies that you think are the repositories of all the nation’s might are empty inside. They have no capabilities. They don’t value experience. They don’t reinvest in themselves. They have no capital equipment. They are nothing but huge money sinks. They are a method of funneling money from the middle class to the wealthy, and that’s it. That’s all they are. They don’t exist to keep you safe. Time to quit believing in magic.

Their superheavy class lifter, the Falcon Heavy, doesn’t have it’s first flight until early next year, so until then they still can’t perform about 30% of the block buy flights.

When it does come out, though, it will be far more powerful than anything else out there. In fact it will spend lift 3/4 of the weight of the SLS at a small fraction of the price, a launcher Congress is spending 10’s of Billions to develop and won’t be regularly usable until the very end of the decade.

The Russians are outsourcing to the French for the Mistral. Their MinDef got sacked and the 4-buy will probably stay a 2-buy. They value insourcing…or at least, insourcing after they learn enough from outside designs.

Since I found out about the Russian boosters I’ve had a change of heart about SpaceX. If they think they can heavy lift to orbit, give them a chance. After non-vital payload tests, of course.

Definitely, to create business opportunity to commercial space flights. But instead of competition they are supporting monopoly.

Did someone in the finance thought that NASA was an slow, old and utterly expensive dinosaur?

I still can’t understand–why are we buying Russian engines? Why can’t we make our own? Who made these decisions?

The US Air Force made this one. They allowed, actually encouraged Lockheed to buy Martin Marietta, allowed the Titan IV to be scrapped. They paid to have the Atlas upgraded and converted to the Russian engines.

Thanks Dfens!

WOW, that combined with all of their other completely insane moves (F-35, retiring the A-10, lost nucs, etc etc) tells me it time to OUTSOURCE the AIR FORCE

Titan’s reliance on hydrazine propellant made it an ecological disaster even by DoD’s lax standards.

The real problem is that the USA stopped R&D on RP1/LOX engines in the seventies, leaving only Russia with experience.

What makes you think USA isn’t run by gangsters? They just call themselves ‘Goldman-Sachs’, ‘Bank of America’, ‘NSA’, etc.
But geopolitically, this can happen when USA imposes economic sanctions on an opponent that has the ability to sanction back.
In Ukraine both sides were riddled by graft and corruption. Additionally, the pro-western side had active neo-NAZIs and the pro-eastern side had Russian ultra-nationalists. USA would have been better served by adopting a neutral anti-corruption stance instead of favoring European investors over Russian investors.

actually ULA owns the plans to make the russian rocket engines themselves but they are not willing to invest in the billions of dollars needed to start manufacturing them in the US.

actually it was german scientists that kick started the US space program that got us to the moon. Americas real talent is finding skilled people from other countries and making the good ideas their own.

The Super Hornet was pretty well designed too and it came after the F-23. I agree though, the F-23 was able to beat the F-22 in a lot of ways and would have been a cheaper fighter.

The Saturn V could lift 6,000,000 pounds in 1967. Why can’t we do that nearly 50 years later? Have we lost the blueprints for those engines? WTH!

Which is why PRIVATE companies are NOT supposed to be doing ‘national security’ work. When are Americans going to finally get that? You think that Russians could even design a simple rifle without government support? Some things are just NOT part of capitalism/free market, and ROCKETRY should be one of them. Even though I support SpaceX, think about it for a second. Those engineers (early ones/top level ones) are all from either government entities, or educated by the government. NASA didn’t grow on a tree. Simple as that. Now you guys are ‘at the mercy’ of two of the most complacent and lazy contractors in the world, lockheed and boeing, who ‘don’t want’ to invest. Hmm where have I heard that disgusting business model before?

America IS a foreign country. Where would you be without Europeans? Still chucking spears and gathering around totem poles. Anyway, I blame education cuts. With a dumb population, you need to insource other countries’ smart people. But guess what, they have it great in their respective countries. Europe isn’t in ruins anymore, Russia is investing and so is Asia. So why would they go to the US? You need home grown skills and smarts.

The US stopped research into kerolox engines after Saturn V, instead focusing solely on hydrolox and solids (i.e. as used on the Space Shuttle or Delta IV). This in retrospect may have been a mistake.

Dynetics brushed off the F-1 engine blueprints and is using them for its entry into the SLS booster competition. That’s a much heavier and more expensive rocket than EELV, though.

Other than that, the only American firm building kerolox engines from scratch is SpaceX.

Then we need to develop our own rocket engines. It is foolish to be dependent on the Russians for rocket engines.

You’re pretty sure of that, are you? So who designed it, Northrop or MD? What were the names of the people involved?

The super hornet is only better than the F-14 at going slow, as is the Sopwith Camel. It is not better in any other part of the flight envelop. I’d hardly say that’s what passes as a red hot airplane design. As for the F-23, I doubt it would have been cheaper, given that the same incentives would apply to either design for the contractors to jack up the price and drag out development, but it would have certainly been better than the F-22 in any part of the flight envelope required of a stealthy airplane. Plus it had much longer legs, it would carry more ordnance, and get it there much faster.

Last I checked, Werner Von Braun was a proud and non-hyphenated American, not a German. Though I have to say I am disgusted by how this nation has trashed his good name just so some NASA contractors could f our once thriving space program right into the ground.

We want our contractors to be lazy and incompetent. We pay them more to be that exactly. You’re not suggesting there might be a better way, are you?

“End of the decade?” You mean “end of the Century,” right?

A number of comments have hit the nail on the head. Number One: It’s our political leadership with it’s timid sanctions which started all of this. Secondly everyone knows that there is truly only one American space
company anymore and the rest have all taken the easy road to profits at the expense of national security or
pride. In fact one source is so “russian” that when they read the list of suppliers it is hard to find one American
supplier. America won WWII because we outproduced anyone else during the war. Today we are so totally
dependent on foreign outsourcing that I wonder if we could last a week ? We had a great big, fat, dumb cargo
rocket capable of doing so much and we threw it away. Just when the Shuttle had operated nearly flawlessly
for 3 years — we threw that away without replacement as well. Our leadership is to blame, and the unimaginative
“american” companies are now blaming the only truly American company to take the heat off of their poor dec–
isions. Too bad because we could have accomplished so much, but we have leaders and greedy companies
without moral fiber and imagination. Too bad that this has become a “welfare mentality” from the top down.

Having studied the Titan IV avionics system to some degree, it wasn’t just an ecological disaster, but, none the less, it was all American made. Even the boosters were built by CSD, not that bunch of morons at Morton Thiocol (now ATK). Of course, then there’s all the wonderful stuff ammonium perchlorate does for the environment…

We stopped all research into making all kinds of rocket engines after the ‘70s. Much as we do with our aircraft, we’re still living off the aerospace advances of that period to maintain parity today, 50 years later.

The alternative is those Russians going and doing what the Norks do today: help other nations build Scuds with longer and longer ranges. Having Russian rocketeers in Iran, North Korea and Venezuela is a Pandora’s box we were lucky to avoid.

I just wish we would’ve moved more of them to America as a sort of Operation Paperclip, and put their brains to work for us (of course, nothing stops them from them sending the work back to Russia…)

The problem isn’t always the contractors, it is often the lazy and incompetent acquisition technocrats, as well as the broken acquisition system.

The problem is that we pay the contractors more to be lazy and incompetent. Doesn’t that pretty well indicate the quality of our “acquisition technocrats,” as well as the state of our acquisition system? I mean, clearly if our acquisition system was worth a damn, would they pay contractors more to screw us over than they do if defense contractors come in with a good product on time and on budget? Obviously not. But then before you go getting a weepy for these muti-national defense corporations, realize that they’re the ones who lobbied for the system of procurement we have now, and they’re the ones who are making a fortune off it.

ULA has been investigated by the FTC already regarding the RD-180 which originally was purchased by General Dynamics in the mid 1990’s. Sanctions did not start the Russian discussion of discontinuing sales of the rocket motor. It started as early as 2012 when the Russians found they were loosing almost 40% of the cost of the rocket at the agreed contract price. The current administration cannot be thrown under the bus for every issue that materializes because of decades of neglect.

Believe me, if the Russians could POSSIBLY build a Mistral like ship in the forseeable future for an acceptable amount of money, they would. We Europeans, and russians, pride ourselves in building things ourselves. Designing it and building it. Even if it’d cost a whee bit more. But the Russians had acute shortage in know how and shipbuilding capacity. AND an acute shortage in such power projection capability (short range helicopter carriers. Which is why the (first 2) will be built and made in France, with the agreement saying the last 2, or possibly more, will be made in Russia, with their new shipbuilding docks, and European (frenc) expertise. Russians think long term, unlike you americans, and are actively investing in their shipbuilding capacity (which for obvious reasons has been decimated, end of cold war etc). So it was a win win. France gets jobs, Russia gets weapons NOW, and the capability to make it themselve in a few years.

These US sanctions, I’m afraid, are hurting the US more than Russia. Apart from the rocket engines you need to go anywhere in space, you’re also cutting Boeing in the foot, as they have engineering centres and buy lots of minerals from Russia (titanium etc). Also, all the US sells to Russia is machinery and high tech goods. Now we hear they’re going to close your Russian based GPS stations also. Russia actually has a very balanced trade with you. But hey, it’s SMALL. The EU trades many hundreds of billions with russia yearly, which is why there won’t be any real sanctions. But the US seems to be cutting of the little bit that they are trading with Russia, at the cost of American machinery and high tech companies. Not very smart, for what in essence is a EUROPEAN problem. So Europeans get to keep trading, while you guys are bleeding yourselves to help us? F crimea and the ship they sailed in on. Who cares about that tiny peace of waste land?

Actually no it couldn’t. It massed over 6,000,000lbs. It could get 260,000 lbs into orbit.

He was born in germany and the US picked him up after the war

I read that there is no blue prints and they are using the engine from the Smithsonian to see if the can make a blue print. Most of the companies that made it are no longer around and parts blue prints were lost decades ago.

Rocketdyne is still around. There are still F-1 engines in front of their offices in the Valley, one in the Smithsonian and presumably others. I am indeed curious where the prints went, but it’s also a machining problem. And in a age of computer controls the F-1 would need a redesign anyways.

Thought the Russians were only providing engines.

When we let the Europeans handle their affairs before the US was dragged into two world wars and Indo-China.

I don’t see how you make the leap to “PRIVATE companies are NOT supposed to be doing ‘national security’ work.” Here in the US our military jumped to the forefront of aviation technology by leveraging private companies and a self reinforcing combination of public and private research. The century series of fighter jets were all based on research done by the USAF Research Labs on the X-1 through X-15 series of supersonic aircraft. The companies that designed these airplanes did so on their own funds and that work achieved something of a pinnacle in the state of the art in the F-4, F-14, F-15, and F-16 that are still used around the world.

I think the biggest mistake we made was in assuming that our defense corporations had motives other than profit upon which to base their success. I find it sad that so many people disparage Boeing and Lockheed for being “greedy” when at the same time they lend to them a lofty status due to the fact they manage to survive in the competitive environment of the “free market”. Lockheed, and many other defense contractors, have no presence at all in the “free market” which they avoid like the plague. None the less, they are obviously and apologetically driven by the profit incentive which could be great news for the US taxpayer if the rules of the market these companies compete in were not directly in conflict with the interests of the taxpayer.

The prints still exist and are achieved at NASA. The problem with those blueprints is that they were made in a hurry and still have many outstanding change notices that were never incorporated into them. Thus the engine that flew astronauts to the moon is not necessarily the engine in the blueprints. The analysis of the actual engines is a means of discovering the true final configuration of these engines “as built”. Also, given that they didn’t have CAD systems let alone 3D CAD systems in the ‘60s, many of the more complexly shaped parts don’t have sufficient definition in the drawings to actually build the parts from. You should work on updating old airplanes, then you’d really know what these guys are up against.

It is indeed a stroke of luck that the remaining F-1’s were allocated to the last missions that never flew, thus they would’ve been the most up-to-date, versus trying to infer from early prototypes that were subsequently improved upon…or worst, trying to find Saturn V stages from the ocean like Bezos.

It’s unlikely we would ever use the F-1 straight up ever again, instead it would be incremental improvement based on an older design. You’d hope that with 40 more years of technology we could do better once we took an F-1 apart.

Far from tax-free if you make any money, it is taxed as a capital gain. the commissions that you pay are taxed as income by the trading company. What other taxes are you looking to add to this? What impact will it have on Pensions/401Ks ?

I’m just parroting a proposal the EU is serious about implementing. It has come out for some time now that Wall Street transactions are being manipulated by computers that use MICRO-SECOND bidding, many of them located in buildings next door to the stock exchange. Any pretense that small and medium investors have a chance against these cheaters would be laughable if it weren’t such a scam that hurts honest trading.

Excellent. ULA does not care about America security — but only about lining its pockets with ill gotten profits. It does not care about Americans and our way of life.

4 engines producing 1.5 million lbs of thrust is 6 million lbs total that these engines could lift. As I recall, the Saturn V launched with all 5 engines burning giving it 7.5 million lbs of thrust initially, but then they killed the middle engine something like 100 seconds into flight so that the acceleration profile did not exceed what the astronauts or some of the equipment could survive.

It’s not just the speed, it’s the ability to predict trends beforehand.

If you have cable you can probably connect to an exchange at a few hundred ms, which isn’t bad. Fiberoptic will bring you down to 10s of milliseconds, and if you’re inside the firewall you can be in the exchange in <1 ms.

If you’re punch drunk and randomly trading, <1 ms doesn’t make you a better trader.

What I read said that the F-1B, as they want to call the new version of this engine would be capable of producing 1.8 million pounds of thrust and it would use parts that were much less labor intensive to build than those in the original engine. It is unfortunate that the vehicle NASA is current screwing around with uses the shuttle main engines (SSME). Those overly complex pieces of crap along with ATK’s 5 segment pogo stick boosters from hell should make that every bit as disaster prone a rocket as was the shuttle, plus it’s hard to imagine such a vehicle can be cost effective throwing away 4 of those gold plated SSME’s at a shot.

Europe makes its own merchant marine?

If not, Europe is doing what we’re doing: only making warships at home, and relying on South Korea and Chinese-built ships, flagged in Liberia and crewed by third worlders.

Are SSME more complex because of the intended reusability?

Another point in favor of use it and lose it.

What makes you a better trader is that you can look at the bid someone on a slow computer is putting on the market for a stock, then you can buy that stock before the market has time to react to the bid and sell it at a higher price when the market has reacted. Also these computers with direct access can allow you to bail out of the market when a bubble bursts leaving those with slower access to take the fall. I have no doubt that this also has to do with why there is so much pressure to eliminate “net neutrality”. We need to go back to high capital gains rates on short term profits to get companies to start reinvesting in themselves, and we need to limit the rate at which transactions can be made. Data should come in and out at 1 or 2 second intervals, not on demand.

I think they are so complicated to try to wring every last bit of efficiency out of the LH2/LOX combustion process, which probably does also tie it to reusability. I believe that fuel to oxidizer ratios in LOX/Kerosene engines are more forgiving generally, although I was surprised to find out while reading one article about the resuscitation of the old F-1 engine that it used what amounted to a hydraulic/analog computer to control various processes on the old engine. These were, of course, going to be replaced by digital computers.

I worked as an engineer in the space industry in the US in the 1980s and since 1985 in the aircraft side. I made the swicth when i saw NASA gut the STS and ruin the first Space Station and came up withthe current ISS concept. Since then the coninuing disasters of NASA’ s hanging on to old technology, starting new efforts and not following through and in general being a poorly run organization that has allowed itself to be the football of congress.

Thefallout has been la lack of serious innovation. The one area of great advance has been the commercial launch efforts with firm like Space X , Orbital Sciences and such. But with the long term cozy relations with ULA rpthat has been as mess.

Whle i wished this was not happening it is. Why? Because Americans for the most part do mpnt care nor see the benifts from Space. Not that i agree but most folks seem to think that manned space has been a waste of thime and money.

Goes to prove that in the United States, science and technology have taken a backseat to socialism. Socialism has bankrupted Europe and this is the model that the left in this country want to emulate. This country had better wake up to teh rearmament of both Russia and China to pose a direct military challenge the US in the not so distant future.

The EU has been a drag on US values like freedom of speech, and political correctness. But the space program has suffered from a lack of direction from our people, and a lack of vision from our alleged leadership. Sure the ISS goes on–under Russian magnanimity. Private efforts are seeking to resolve this. It is US education, or should I say a lack of it, that neglects the space physics for the new physics–genetic engineering. These science are in competition for followers, and our competitors realize this. It is US education which needs a rocket push

We need companies like space X. If Lockheed and Boeing cannot produce an American Made rocket engine the US Government should turn to a US company that can. If Lockeed and Boeing cannot or will not make an American Made rocket engine they should get out of the rocket engine business entirely.

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