The Commercial Crew & Cargo Programs by NASA both have made consistent progress towards dealing with the task of sending supplies and astronauts from and to the only destination inside LEO (low Earth orbit) – the ISS. However, the path to orbit hasn’t been a smooth one.
Maybe the biggest hardship that those businesses are dealing with is achieving something which was the only purview of the space agency for over 50 years. Orbital ATK and SpaceX, at first, met with a lot of success. Space flight in its current state, however – one that uses rockets to send off payloads into orbit – never is “routine”. A truth which was driven home from October 2014 as well as June of 2015.
As far as SpaceX is concerned, the NewSpace company is working not to just return service to the booster yet additionally to boost the rocket’s abilities, too.
The mission Orbcomm 2 doesn’t need a relighting of the 2nd phase engine after orbital insertion. Therefore, flying the mission of Orbcomm 2 at first will permit SpaceX to perform an orbit testing of the second phase in order to re-light the program following the satellites Orbcomm 2 being securely deployed. The on orbit test, which is mixed with the present qualification plan to be finished before launching, further will validate the 2nd phase re-light program as well as permit for optimization of mission SES 9 that is coming up and after the geosynchronous orbit missions.
A single firm, maybe more than any additional one, hasn’t fared well when the agency embraces privatization of a bit of what was purview of NASA for over 50 years – Aerojet Rocketdyne.
This company, a 2013 merger of Pratt and Whitney Rocketdyne and Aerojet, paid settlement recently which a report that appeared inside Business Journal stated that it “wipes out 2015’s c earnings – then some”.
Most of Aerojet Rocketdyne’s current offerings will not have consumers by the following decade. As recently noted by other sources, ULA passed upon the AJ 60A solid motors for Vulcan use and went as far as to start to phase them out upon the Atlas V, too (Irene Klotz with Reuters went as far as to state that AJ 60A was “dumped“). This marks a change from a down select determination on the SRBs, as it was meant to occur in 2016.
This determination to move away from AJ 60A shortly came after Rocketdyne’s offer to buy ULA got declined. However, the company’s problems did not end there.
ULA has had their eye on the engine BE4 for Vulcan’s initial phase, as well as BE 3 for its new booster’s ACES.
With some efforts to get both Delta IV and Atlas V lines retired by the year 2020, Aerojet Rocketdyne still will play a role in the LSP marketplace through that frame of time. However, as Vulcan becomes certified to perform missions for the Defense Department, and the space agency’s CCP and CRS commercial flights and programs, the main vehicle which will utilize engines generated by the company based in California is Space Launch System by NASA.
The legacy RS 25 and J 2X engines are going to be utilized on the initial flights of the heavy lift booster alongside the RL10C additionally being tapped for the enormous new rocket. It isn’t clear if this is going to be enough to sustain Rocketdyne as SLS currently is scheduled to launch at the rate of around one time every other year.
However, the hardships that those companies have faced in attempting to carry those missions out and survive within the NewSpace age go beyond issues of flight tolerance and logistics.
On June 11th, 2015, a little more than a couple of weeks prior to the mishap of the CRS 7, Senate Appropriations Committee approved of the budget for 2016 for NASA – it was $334 million under what they said was required to adequately perform the space agency’s Commercial Crew Plan. That’s according to a report that was issued by Jeff Foust of Space News.
This decision caused Charles Bolden, the space agency’s present Administrator, to express his displeasure – as was noted in a post that appeared in SpaceFlight Insider.
The space agency has worked since the year 2006 to allow private companies to deal with the duty of sending cargo to the International Space Station; with the task of dealing with the responsibility of sending crews to the station which is getting underway around 4 years later. NASA is operating with a 2-pronged approach, one which sees NASA concentrating on deep space exploration of locales such as Mars a probability – whereas private companies handle what NASA has been doing as far as LEO operations are concerned for the last 50 years.