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Adeldor t1_j9u7eq4 wrote

> ... Bruno said[,] the oxygen pump on one of these engines has consistently produced about 5 percent more oxygen into the engine than expected. This fell outside the bounds of nominal performance but had only been observed in this engine.

> "We've arrived at the conclusion that this is simply likely unit-to-unit variation, ..."

> "Before the end of 2025 we expect to be really at a tempo, which is flying a couple of times a month, every two weeks."

Between the quoted variance and BO's yet-to-be-proved ability to produce motors at the required rate, I remain skeptical they'll be able to reach such a cadence by 2026.


tanrgith t1_j9v9smx wrote

The idea that the ULA would be able to pump out 2 full new rockets consistently each month and have enough demand for it in a world where SpaceX can profitable launch mass to orbit for far less seems wildly unrealistic


Anderopolis t1_j9w7r9x wrote

ULA has already sold over 40 launches to Amazon.

Costumers are not an issue at the moment.


tanrgith t1_j9w8w8y wrote

Fair point

I still doubt they're gonna have the ability to pump out 2 rockets a month in less than 3 years


mfb- t1_j9x2wn6 wrote

Flying every two weeks is 25 launches per year. Let 10 of them be for the US government, then you can go through the Kuiper manifest in 2.5 years. "a couple of times a month" sounds even faster than 2 per month.


Triabolical_ t1_j9whgl2 wrote

Amazon has bought a ton of capacity but we don't know the details of those contracts. Amazon may have the ability to flex to the provider that is more successful or cheaper.


mfb- t1_j9x2zga wrote

You think Bezos is going to SpaceX?

Amazon already bought every large rocket that's not SpaceX. Maybe they get a few Neutron launches.


Triabolical_ t1_j9x7r4u wrote

I'm just pointing out that announced launches do not always translate to actual launches.


mfb- t1_j9xdaaf wrote

Sure, but if you are already buying every rocket you consider an option then there are not many ways to switch.


digifa t1_j9w6ezy wrote

ULA’s customer’s needs are quite different from SpaceX. They’re able to launch payloads to orbits and velocities that SpaceX does not offer, and the military, NASA, and many private entities already have contracts lined up with them. ULA and SpaceX are both launch providers, however they occupy different markets and there is a lot of demand for both. They aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.


Triabolical_ t1_j9wiaed wrote

The big government program is NSSL , and both SpaceX and ULA are certified to do all of their launches, as that was a requirement to bid. And NASA has chosen falcon heavy for Europa clipper, a high energy mission.

What launches is ULA able to do that SpaceX can't?


digifa t1_j9x2ep0 wrote

Not much difference, but enough to make a difference. The Atlas has wider flexibility and more options for its fairing load than the Falcon, and both the Atlas and Delta both have very specific high-energy orbits that the Falcon cannot offer—even when it is used fully expendable. And the Delta has a slightly higher payload mass maximum. Other than that, they have their proven track record of decades of reliability.

But I have to admit after reading up on it a bit more extensively, the differences between both companies isn’t as significant as I had previously thought. ULA needs to step up or they’ll be dead in the water very soon.


mfb- t1_j9x3owe wrote

> and both the Atlas and Delta both have very specific high-energy orbits that the Falcon cannot offer—even when it is used fully expendable

That's why Falcon Heavy exists... besides, Atlas and Delta are retiring, they cannot get new launches anyway.

> Other than that, they have their proven track record of decades of reliability.

The currently active version of Falcon 9, Block 5, has a 149/149 track record. Falcon Heavy is at 5/5. All these launches were made in the last 6 years, which is a much better indication of current performance than launches from 1990.


Triabolical_ t1_j9x7l11 wrote

Which orbits?

Wrt fairings, iirc SpaceX has an extended fairing launch as part of NSSL. They also have a vertical integration one.


OudeStok t1_j9xv8ci wrote

Comparing ULA to SpaceX is not realistic. Vulcan is yesterday's news. It is not re-usable, despite vague plans to try to recapture the engines by helicopters (plans which ULA has scrapped for the time being).


Xeglor-The-Destroyer t1_ja0d2bn wrote

ULA has been mumbling to themselves in a corner about engine parachute recovery since 2007 if not earlier, maybe even before the merger. It's not going to happen.


DBDude t1_j9ut6me wrote

I wonder why they had so many problems with that engine, slipping the deadline again and again. Really, it's yet another oxygen-rich staged combustion engine, even simpler than the dual-chamber RD-180 it replaces. The Raptor is doing fine, and it's a much more complicated engine to engineer (full flow staged combustion).


Adeldor t1_j9v0dbc wrote

I can only speculate. Possibilities that come to mind (which might not be popular):

  • Inefficient/interfering management

  • Insufficient expertise among employees

  • Customer "moving the goalposts"

  • A design quirk making realization difficult

I'm sure there are other possibilities.


MT_Kinetic_Mountain t1_j9v1u30 wrote

I think there was some talk about BO trying to renegotiate a better deal for the engines or something? Take with a large table spoon of salt because I think I'd heard it on reddit.


DBDude t1_j9v50b0 wrote

I did hear rumblings about inefficient management being related to why Bezos quit Amazon to be more involved in BO.


mfb- t1_j9x4851 wrote

> The Raptor is doing fine

Most landing failures were linked to the engines not starting up properly. The recent static fire was done with 31/33 because two engines had issues. Compared to a landing this is less critical during a launch because of the large redundancy, but they clearly need to work on that for routine flights.


DBDude t1_j9yf6e0 wrote

That was in testing. This thing does have a very complicated startup.


mfb- t1_j9ykv8u wrote

The most recent test still had issues with two engines.

It's a complicated engine, but that doesn't mean issues are not issues any more.


DBDude t1_j9z1jov wrote

My point is that the Soviets mastered this design almost 50 years ago, yet BO is having problems doing it just with a different fuel. Nobody's ever mastered full-flow staged combustion (didn't go beyond testing), yet SpaceX appears further along with that than BE-4, in about the same amount of time. My bet is that it's mostly management issues.

Edit: New news: ULA is having problems qualifying one of the engines for flight because it keeps pumping out too much oxygen. You'd think BO would at least have something like this right before they shipped, but apparently the engines had only minimal testing.

I like SpaceX, but I don't want them being the only cheap, reusable medium+ launch service out there. BO needs to get its act together.


asssuber t1_j9v5wdd wrote

Raptor isn't doing that fine. You had many failing during starship's fights (not always the engine fault, but still) and 2 failing in the latest static fire. IIRC it also started development before the BE-4 (well before if you count when it was still supposed to burn hydrogen, but not much development was happening then). And let's not talk about deadlines, we all know that in the space industry they are just optimistic targets.

The RD-180 is a Russian engine, they have experience with oxygen-rich stage combustion, not the USA. AFAIK BE-4 will be the first oxygen-rich staged combustion engine made in USA to be flown (if we ignore that a full flow staged combustion engine also has an oxygen-rich side).


DBDude t1_j9vjhn5 wrote

They lit 31 engines, a world record. The last time someone tried 30 they blew up four rockets in a row, the second one destroying the launch facility.

>IIRC it also started development before the BE-4

They were kind of playing around with ideas before BE-4, but real design didn't start until around the same time.

>if we ignore that a full flow staged combustion engine also has an oxygen-rich side

We'd have to. It's amazing to me that a modern company absolutely flush with cash is having serious issues designing roughly a methane variant of what's just a dual-chamber version of what was at the time a 25+ year-old engine. Something's been very wrong at BO. I'm just hoping now that Bezos is actively involved they can clean up their act.


asssuber t1_j9wgqvt wrote

> They lit 31 engines, a world record.

They lit 32 engines, one shut down during the (short) static fire.

> The last time someone tried 30 they blew up four rockets in a row, the second one destroying the launch facility.

N1 is a very low standard to compare against. It's engines could not even be test fired prior to being mounted in the rocket, much less had a chance to do a full static fire like SH. Those were also the first staged combustion engines ever made, oxygen-rich on top. And the failures had more to do with the rocket than the engines themselves.

On the other end a very high standard of reliability is given by SpaceX itself. SpaceX flew Falcon Heavy five times, each firing 27 engines (plus the upper stage one) and it was 100% successful with no Merlin having a problem in any of the flights. 27 is almost the same as 30, the phantasm of N1 was slayed by SpaceX itself already.

Raptor is clearly immature and problematic if you compare it with Merlin, RD-180, Vulcan-2, etc. We have seen it's engine-rich exhaust several times and they are still tweaking the film-cooling for optimal performance, and might have other problems they haven't spoken.

Given ULA's more stringent standards (they aren't expecting to lose/scrap several test vehicles, going through dozens of engines like Spacex. They don't have engine-out capability to shrug off a few bad engines like SH), I do not see BE-4 as being less fine than Raptor.


This_Environment_883 t1_j9vgeaa wrote

When i read their press thing i thought it sounded like something might be up. It went from LET.GO we got the engines to we got lots of and lot more testing to do

BO couldn’t send two PERFECT rocket engines? Like you know this is the most important thing as everyone as talked about ULA being beholden to BO. And delays and many other things.

So this is a huge red flag to me. The fact launchs go from 2 this a year a few more in 24 then every two weeks makes me think ULA is seeing that a year or two or more to get things right. Not a good sign

why ULA went with BO has never really made sense can anyone tell me why?


Xeglor-The-Destroyer t1_j9w9z7n wrote

Eh, it took SpaceX several years to scale to that sort of launch cadence. I certainly wouldn't expect Old Space to miraculously reach a flight every other week within a year.

> why ULA went with BO has never really made sense can anyone tell me why?

Aerojet's AR1 engine was way behind in development. In short, they didn't want to design it unless someone else was paying for it and that made development drag out. BO, on the other hand, was building the BE-4 on its own dime regardless of whether someone else was interested in buying them. Aerojet basically has no ambition as a company.


Triabolical_ t1_j9wh8vf wrote

AR hadn't made an engine since the rs-68, and that's a gas generator.

That ULA chose to go with blue origin is either an indication of what they think of AR's technical ability, of how much AR wanted, or some mix of the two.