Cygnus Loaded With Nearly 4 Tons of Supplies for December Return to Space Station

Engineers this week completed connecting the Pressurized Cargo Module with the Service Module to form the Cygnus spacecraft that will ferry more than 7,000 pounds of supplies, equipment and experiments to the International Space Station for NASA in December. The OA-4 mission is scheduled to launch atop a ULA Atlas-V rocket from Cape Canaveral, Fla. NET Dec. 3, 2015. Photo Credit: NASA

Engineers this week completed connecting the Pressurized Cargo Module with the Service Module to form the Cygnus spacecraft that will ferry more than 7,000 pounds of supplies, equipment, and experiments to the International Space Station for NASA in December. The OA-4 mission is scheduled to launch atop a ULA Atlas-V rocket from Cape Canaveral, Fla. NET Dec. 3, 2015. Photo Credit: NASA

Orbital ATK’s first unmanned Cygnus cargo ship since the loss of the ORB-3 mission last year is nearly ready for an early December return-to-flight to deliver over 7,700 pounds of supplies, equipment, and experiments to the International Space Station (ISS) for NASA. The OA-4 mission is scheduled to launch Dec. 3, courtesy of a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas-V 401 rocket, and this week engineers in the Space Station Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida finished packing the pressurized portion of the spacecraft for the 17,500 mph trip to the $100 billion international orbital research outpost.

Workers had to lift the spacecraft’s Pressurized Cargo Module (PCM) and rotate it upright to join it to the spacecraft’s second critical piece of hardware, the power-producing Service Module (SM)—the “brain” of Cygnus that holds the spacecraft’s avionics, electrical, communication, propulsion system, and instrumentation to steer in space.

Engineers and technicians spent the last several days packing the pressurized portion of the Cygnus spacecraft before rotating the cylindrical module upright so it could be lifted to join the power-producing service module. Photo Credit: NASA

Crews spent this week packing the pressurized portion of the Cygnus spacecraft before rotating the cylindrical module upright so it could be lifted to join the power-producing service module. Photo Credit: NASA

The spacecraft as a whole is an enhanced version of the original, featuring an extended PCM, a lighter CM, and new lightweight Ultraflex solar arrays, upgrades which will enable the new Cygnus to fly nearly as much weight as the last three Cygnus missions combined.

The OA-4 resupply mission will come over a year after Orbital ATK’s 133-foot-tall Antares rocket exploded spectacularly just six seconds after liftoff on Oct. 28, 2014, carrying the company’s Cygnus on its third ISS resupply mission under a $1.9 billion Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract with NASA. Signed in December 2008, the agreement requires the Dulles, Va.-based company to fly eight dedicated Cygnus missions to the ISS by 2016 to deliver a total of 44,000 pounds of payloads and other items for NASA.

The contract has since since been extended, for obvious reasons, and NASA has already given Orbital ATK two additional missions under that same contract as well, missions OA-9e and OA-10e, giving Cygnus 10 flights under the CRS-1 contract instead of the original eight.

However, the increased capability of the ULA Atlas-V compared to the Orbital ATK Antares means ULA can haul 35 percent more cargo to orbit with Cygnus, which would have allowed Orbital ATK to fulfill their original CRS-1 contract in seven flights instead of eight. Now, with the contract extended to 10 flights, it is expected that Orbital ATK will only really need nine, with the 10th Cygnus CRS-1 contract flight optional depending on the needs of the ISS.

NASA signed two CRS contracts; the other was signed with SpaceX for the same ISS resupply services. This summer a SpaceX Falcon-9 also exploded with its Dragon capsule packed with thousands of pounds of ISS cargo, leaving the United States again unable to reach the ISS on its own. SpaceX also received an extension from NASA for their CRS-1 contract, with several new resupply missions added to the manifest.

The loss of ORB-3 last year was eventually blamed on a turbopump-related failure in one of the two Aerojet Rocketdyne AJ-26 stage one main engines the Antares employed. Aerojet, however, has rebutted this cause and instead puts the blame on improper handling. Orbital ATK has since replaced the AJ-26 engines on the Antares 130 variant, and has instead purchased Russian RD-181 engines from NPO Energomash for the more powerful Antares 230 variant. The greater performance of the upgraded Antares 230 will permit Cygnus to deliver over 20 percent more cargo—some 15,000 pounds—to low-Earth orbit.

The first set of the rocket’s new RD-181 engines arrived at Orbital ATK’s Antares launch site at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia last July, and the first set of new engines have already been integrated with the rocket’s modified core stage. A second set of engines for another Antares was expected to be delivered this fall, and a 29-second static test fire of the upgraded Antares first stage with the new AJ-26 engines is on track for December or January.

Antares exploding just seconds after liftoff with the Orb-3 mission for NASA. Photo Credit: Elliot Severn

Antares exploding just seconds after liftoff with the Orb-3 mission for NASA. Photo Credit: Elliot Severn/Zero-G News/AmericaSpace

“The integration of our first launch vehicle is well underway and we are solidly on track to resume flying Antares in 2016,” said Mike Pinkston, Vice President and General Manager of Orbital ATK’s Antares Program. “The RD-181 provides more thrust and higher specific impulse than the AJ-26. This, combined with the extra power of the Castor 30XL upper stage, will greatly increase the payload capacity of Antares, enabling Orbital ATK to achieve the cargo requirements of their CRS contact with NASA in fewer flights.”

The Antares launch pad sustained damage from the ORB-3 explosion as well, and has since been completely repaired. The future of Antares and Cygnus, however, is not certain. NASA is expected to announce Nov. 5 whether Orbital ATK receives another multi-billion dollar CRS contract (CRS-2) or not, as there are several companies in the running. If Cygnus is not contracted for the next round of NASA ISS resupply contracts then the Wallops launch site, and Antares rocket, may remain quiet for much longer than just the last year.

In the meantime Orbital ATK will need ULA for another Atlas-V rocket to launch Cygnus a second time early next year, which will supplement two or three Antares-launched missions to the ISS in 2016, with the first expected next spring.

“With OA-4 set to launch in December and at least three additional missions to the ISS planned in 2016, we remain solidly on schedule to meet our CRS cargo requirements for NASA,” said Frank Culbertson, president of Orbital ATK’s Space Systems Group and former NASA space shuttle/ISS astronaut. “Our team’s performance in meeting milestones on an accelerated timeline demonstrates the company’s flexibility and responsiveness to customer needs. If all goes as planned, on Dec. 3, space watchers new and seasoned can thrill to seeing a unique, ‘two-of-its-kind’ launch, as an Atlas-V rocket lofts a Cygnus cargo ship to orbit.”

 

Be sure to “Like” AmericaSpace on Facebook and follow us on Twitter: @AmericaSpace

.

Missions » ISS » COTS » CYGNUS » Missions » ISS » COTS » CYGNUS » ORB-4 »

32 comments to Cygnus Loaded With Nearly 4 Tons of Supplies for December Return to Space Station

  • Colorado

    Why doesn’t ATK resurrect the stick?

    • Malmesbury

      Cost – price would be higher than several other launchers in the market, to recover costs.
      Vibration – big solids vibrate alot. Too much for nearly any commercial payload.

      • Colorado

        Since the shuttle transported “nearly any commercial payload” and the vibration level for the shuttle and Ares1X was essentially the same- how about citing some proof of that? As for price- it is flying on the Atlas which is supposedly outrageously expensive (according to SpaceX fans) I tend to think your claim of it being more expensive is also in need of some proof.

      • Joe

        Actually Malmesbury all rockets vibrate (meaning oscillation along the vertical axis of the vehicle).

        In solids it is called thrust oscillation, in liquids it is called Pogo Effect.

        The question is what is the amplitude and period of the oscillation for each type of vehicle.

        While there were theoretical problems with the Ares-1 they were not insurmountable and in fact were basically resolved just as the program was cancelled.

        Know you probably do not want to hear this but, it is true never the less.

        • Colorado

          The stick was endlessly mocked by the NewSpace crowd. Not only is the myth that vibration was out of limits but also the 45th space wing “study” that showed the parachutes melting from SRB debris was not really credible; the SRB would have had to be commanded to destruct for the umbrella of flaming debris predicted and that would just not have been done until the capsule was safely away. The segmented SRB would not explode in an umbrella without the self-destruct system being used and even if it was NASA did not agree with the air force study and stated the extremely powerful LAS would take the capsule out of most of the danger area in a worst case scenario.

          The stick was a good design with a reusable first stage, a single engine expendable second stage, a very powerful escape system and a payload about the same as the Delta IV heavy. Separating Constellation into two vehicles- one as simple and as safe as possible for the crew with the other being being the cargo carrier- was a result of the fundamental mistake made with the shuttle system.

          • Malmesbury

            “the SRB would have had to be commanded to destruct for the umbrella of flaming debris predicted and that would just not have been done until the capsule was safely away.”

            It was my understanding that Range Safety refused to consider delaying the destruction of the booster. This led to the requirement for the gigantic LAS that caused so many problems for the Orion design.

            “reusable first stage” – The parachutes to recover the first stage were removed at an early stage in the development of Ares I/V. ATK got rid of the tooling to build cases for the originla 4 seg boosters – and pushed extremely hard (to say the least) for the development of the new 5 seg boosters, which do not have re-usability as an option.

            As to the last part – crew and cargo. Consider this irony – one of the projects that was proposed instead of Constellation was a medium/heavy rocket with a new Methane/LOX engine. ACES on top. Delta IV heavy payload in single core config… Yes, Vulcan a decade back….

            • Joe

              “It was my understanding that Range Safety refused to consider delaying the destruction of the booster. This led to the requirement for the gigantic LAS that caused so many problems for the Orion design.”

              Actually the problem with the abort scenario had to do with the size of the Orion Capsule.

              Orion’s outer mold line (OML) was the same as that of the Apollo Command Module, but is a much larger vehicle (9 ft. diameter for Apollo as opposed to 15 ft. for Orion). This meant that it presented a much bigger projected surface area to the atmosphere and a much more energetic deceleration when the LAS shut down.

              As a result the crew would have experienced:
              (1) Seven G acceleration with the LAS burn (eyes in).
              (2) Eight G acceleration with the LAS shut down (eyes out).

              The seven G (eyes in) was not the problem and is about in line with the required acceleration for an abort from any booster. The problem was the (near instantaneous) reversal to the eight G (eyes out).

              This was ameliorated by a combination of:
              (1) A lower thrust “closing burn” on the LAS to reduce the eyes out G loads.
              (2) Changes to the Crew Impact Attenuation System (CIAS) – the seat pallet.

              “As to the last part – crew and cargo. Consider this irony – one of the projects that was proposed instead of Constellation was a medium/heavy rocket with a new Methane/LOX engine. ACES on top. Delta IV heavy payload in single core config… Yes, Vulcan a decade back….”

              Do you have a link to this proposal, would interested in reading it.

              • Colorado

                I remember quite well the comments about the power of the Orion LAS and the SpaceX fans wailing and gnashing their teeth that it is TOO powerful. They naysay anything not-SpaceX to the point of absurdity.

                Of course, if the criticism is about the massive amount of hypergolics carried in the toxic dragon and the very low probability of survival if the “helicopter landing” procedure burps- then it is the opposite case. It is just fine and “SpaceX knows what they are doing.”

              • Malmesbury

                The size of the LAS also impacted Orions structure and the the weight resulted in Orion being stripped of a number of capabilities. Which have not been restored.

                There was no formal proposal published IIRC. The Methalox engine was one of the technologies that formed part of the Obama administration proposal for “what next” after Constellation was cancelled. ULA was deeply involved in discussions at that point – the design concept was based around the USAF wanting to reduce launch costs while increasing launch mass. Go the other way to the FIA debacle. The idea was that the single stick launcher would replace the current ULA line up and the heavy (3 core) would do the errr….. heavy lifting for NASA. There was some stuff published on the engine re-use concept IIRC – I can try and find that.

                This shouldn’t suprise anyone – Vulcan didn’t pop into existence over night. It is the crystallization of the wish list for a future vehicle by ULA. A wish list that has been quietly worked on over many years.

                • Joe

                  “The size of the LAS also impacted Orions structure and the the weight resulted in Orion being stripped of a number of capabilities. Which have not been restored.”

                  Not sure what that is supposed to mean. Orion’s weight problems were caused by the fact that the Apollo Command Module’s Outer Mold Line (OML) was selected, but the vehicle was significantly larger.

                  The OML assured the vehicles terminal velocity would be the same as that for Apollo. The greater mass of the larger vehicle then assured that the kinetic energy would be greater when the main chutes needed to be deployed. That caused the loads placed on the chute lines to exceed safety margins (note – this did not involve Ares 1 payload capacity).

                  As of the end of Constellation Systems that weight problem had been resolved, with the only major concession being eliminating Orion’s capability to carry a crew of six to LEO (something “commercial” crew supporters objected too anyway).

                  Again I am not trying to bring back the Ares 1, only to make sure some of these myths do not get further propagated.

                • Joe

                  “There was no formal proposal published IIRC. The Methalox engine was one of the technologies that formed part of the Obama administration proposal for “what next” after Constellation was cancelled.”

                  There sure was no formal proposal. That Obama Administration NASA Budget was a classic political action proposing every thing any body ever wanted chasing far to little money to do anywhere near all of it.

                  ULA may have been thinking about a getting funding for a LNG/LOX engine, but supporters of many other advanced concepts were also chasing the same inadequate amount of money.

                  Propellant Depots
                  Nuclear Thermal Rockets
                  Nuclear Electric Rockets
                  Closed Loop Life Support Systems

                  To name just a few. It was a classic bate and switch to gain support in Congress to try it get support for the Moon Program cancellation.

                  To their credit, a bi-partisan majority of a then overwhelmingly Democrat Party controlled Congress did not fall for it.

                  They fought back against it as much as they could. Unfortunately, trying to set policy from Congress (against the wishes of a sitting Administration) is like trying to push a rope and you can only push that rope so far.

                  That is how we are now in the current sad situation.

                  • Colorado

                    In my view of those four only a Closed Loop Life Support System would be worthy of funding.

                    Propellant Depots are the old NewSpace flim flam that makes the evil OldSpace Super Heavy Lift Rockets unnecessary. There are so many holes in the propellant depot fantasy that it falls apart under even the most casual technical scrutiny.

                    Nuclear Thermal Rockets are a dead end- it is hard enough keeping a conventional chemical rocket from melting. For an Isp only twice that of a chemical rocket they are a tremendous waste of time and money.

                    Nuclear Electric Rockets call for a nuclear electric power station to generate a trivial amount of thrust- completely impractical because that complicated generating system would have to function flawlessly for years to get anywhere.

                    Closed Loop Life Support will be necessary but the prerequisite hundreds of tons of water could only be dipped out of the shallow lunar gravity well and….we first have to go to the Moon to do that.

                    As for propulsion- only one system is practical and it is politically incorrect to discuss and also requires going to the Moon (H-bombs). Since giving billionaire hobbyists access to nuclear devices is not on the table pulse propulsion is also a verboten subject with the NewSpace mob but then so is the Moon.

                    • Joe

                      And that is fine.

                      I have different opinions on the viability of some of those options (and we are not even discussing all of the others in the original laundry list).

                      That was the point of the Obama “proposal” to replace Constellation Systems. It was a bait and switch game intended to divide and conquer the general HSF community. Set each group of advocates fighting each of the others and eventually leave all with nothing.

                      The real target was the Congress, which was supposed to run around in circles trying to respond to all their constituency groups leading not only to the end of the Moon Program; but to the defunding of the supposed “replacement” as well.

                      As I said, fortunately, the Congress didn’t fall for it.

                      Still not in a good situation, but a better one than the current Administration intended.

                    • Colorado

                      “-intended to divide and conquer the general HSF community. Set each group of advocates fighting each of the others and eventually leave all with nothing.

                      The real target was the Congress, which was supposed to run around in circles trying to respond to all their constituency groups-”

                      We as space advocates are a hopelessly divided bunch with no guiding light- perhaps the last champion (and he only had a small following) was Gerard K. O’Neill and Proxmire infamously humiliated him; In response to a segment about space colonies run by the CBS program 60 Minutes, Proxmire stated that; “it’s the best argument yet for chopping NASA’s funding to the bone …. I say not a penny for this nutty fantasy”.

        • Malmesbury

          Yes, all rockets vibrate. In all axes in every possible way an engineer can think of. And then some.

          The larger a solid is, the more you get large amplitude vibration. In the shuttle stack, this was mitigated by the rest of the stack acting as an absorber.

          In Ares-I/Liberty you didn’t have that. The result was that the vibrations – particularly the large amplitude, lower frequency ones – were significantly higher than those acceptable for nearly all commercial satellites. And most US Airforce payloads as well. Which meant that Liberty would have been very limited compared to, say Delta IV, Atlas 5, Ariane etc.

          • Joe

            You have stated the internet conventional wisdom on the subject accurately. As often happens on subjects like this that internet conventional wisdom can be at variance with the facts.

            As analysis of the thrust oscillation situation with the Ares 1 continued two facts emerged:
            (1) The thrust oscillation turned out to not as severe as originally thought (in fact actual hardware testing – as opposed to analysis – showed it to be much less).
            (2) Mitigation techniques to ameliorate the actual levels of thrust oscillation were developed and approved,

            As is often the case in these matters, those already against the stick (as they derisively called it) stopped listening to any input after the early stages of the developments that supported what they wanted to believe.

            If you are in any way interested in learning more about the subject, check out the following link.

            https://blogs.nasa.gov/Constellation/tag/thrust-oscillation/

            I am not saying any of this to support a rebirth of the Ares 1; frankly I could care less about that at this point. But the complete case should be known.

            • Colorado

              “I am not saying any of this to support a rebirth of the Ares 1; frankly I could care less about that at this point.”

              I have commented several times that if Musk had started out with a pressure-fed reusable booster similar in thrust to the shuttle SRB I might be his biggest fan. But instead of a 3 million pound thrust device SpaceX started with a mediocre low-thrust kerosene engine that severely limited anything they would be able to (or can) accomplish. We can see the consequences of this with the 27 engine insult to the KISS principle.

              The stick configuration using a pressure-fed would be the ultimate taxi to orbit. Hopefully a taxi not to LEO but to a shielded space station in GEO.

              LEO is not even really space.

            • Malmesbury

              Yes – it was fixed for flying people. However, satellites are generally built to be more intolerant of vibration during launch. The US Airforce spent decades carefully defining the launch environment with ULA… and they are very, very unwilling to change the specs now.

              • Colorado

                I say again, the shuttle flew satellites and the vibration levels were proven to be no different on the Ares I.

                You want to keep repeating the same story that it could not fly air force satellites now then you need to cite something. Otherwise you are just making it up in my opinion.

    • Tim Andrews

      I liked Ares 1 and Liberty largely due to the simplicity of their approach and leveraging of existing technology.

      They weren’t finished though, so who would pay for development if Orbital/ATK were to try and switch-up mid-stream in the CRS contract?

      I wouldn’t see Orbital ATK dropping that money out of their own pocket. They were funded under CRS to develop Antares (and had been working on the upgraded version since before the failure), and have had to eat the cost of Cygnus/Atlas V integration studies to keep pace with CRS launches. NASA already cut the checks for development of Antares/Cygnus under CRS, at this point CRS is a paycheck-per-flight program, so I wouldn’t expect them do turn around and offer more money than they are contracted to even if Orbital ATK wanted to switch.

      The stick was a cool idea, but it missed the boat for CRS.

      • Colorado

        Orbital ATK wants to launch spacecraft with Russian engines so I would say they are missing the boat and would do better with the stick.

        • Colorado

          why am I being moderated? Let me take a wild guess; Andrew LaPage.

          • being moderated?

            Man I hope so, Gary Church is such an obnoxious troll with nothing constructive to offer, a blight on an otherwise great web site.

            • Colorado

              “-on an otherwise great web site.”

              It is a great site for those few who don’t like to read any comments they disagree with. When someone with a different perspective has their say the troll-branding and insults begin.

              • James

                Sorry Colorado, I replied to

                Colorado
                October 28, 2015 at 2:39 pm

                James
                Your comment is awaiting moderation.
                October 28, 2015 at 7:07 pm

                But obviously my post got stuck in moderation. Oh well…

                You know that basically I am pro kerosene, so I guess the lost in moderation post isn’t that important.

          • Joe

            Or you might want to check how many links, if any, you included in your post.

            I have had two posts placed in moderation and never moderated. Both had three or more links (was trying to give historical documentation). Neither of these was particularly combative (as compared to say – se jones October 27, 2015 at 4:07 pm).

            Can not know for sure, but it is possible that the system automatically places any post with over a certain amount of links in moderation and does not flag that appropriately for the actual moderators.

      • john doe

        The stick had a reusable first stage, 2 engines and the first stage was a solid with few moving parts, and could lift about as much as a Delta IV heavy.

        Everything the falcon heavy was supposed to do a couple years ago it could be doing right now.

  • Colorado

    That methane as a ULA propellant seems to be an argument being used more often against hydrogen really needs to be addressed.

    Methane is no miracle and ULA is pursuing it as a cost saving measure with commiserate sacrifices in performance. The loss of the Delta IV and the RS-68A is really NOT a good thing for space exploration.

    Methane does not have the ISP of hydrogen or the density of kerosene so in that sense has the worst qualities of both. Because it is a lower density cryogenic the turbopumps will, like hydrogen, be more expensive to design and manufacture than kerosene pumps. The cost savings come in the storing and transfer of the lower temperature and more stable methane compared to hydrogen which is a great deal of trouble because of it’s unique properties. Some of these characteristics are not generally known such as the exothermic form of hydrogen that is unavoidable in small amounts and contaminates a certain percentage of the load causing complications in storage. And then there is the difficult and technically demanding pre-cooling of all the transfer plumbing when fueling- and on and on. Methane ends up costing less. But the loss in performance compared to hydrogen is dramatic and the Isp gain over kerosene is minor compensation, especially since kerosene is an obsolete propellant only used by ULA because of the availability of Russian engines. A mix of hydrogen and solid fuel boosters as used on the shuttle has long been recognized as the best combination for large launch vehicles.

    There is no substitute for hydrogen in upper stages.

    • Colorado

      My mistake, “cost savings come in the HIGHER temperature and more stable methane-”

      The term “stable” when applied to methane compared to hydrogen has to do with the ability of hydrogen to escape just about any container and also it’s nasty habit of embrittling and weakening metals.

    • James

      Colorado- “Methane ends up costing less. But the loss in performance compared to hydrogen is dramatic and the Isp gain over kerosene is minor compensation, especially since kerosene is an obsolete propellant only used by ULA because of the availability of Russian engines. A mix of hydrogen and solid fuel boosters as used on the shuttle has long been recognized as the best combination for large launch vehicles.”

      Japan with their H2 and H3 launchers and Europe with their Ariane 5 and Ariane 6 launchers also ‘like’ the combination of “A mix of hydrogen and solid fuel boosters”, however kerosene is not “an obsolete propellant”.

      The Atlas V, Delta II, and Delta III show some of the potential of a kerolox core with solid propellant boosters.

      Note also that the Delta III’s first stage had a fat 4 meter diameter kerosene fuel tank which is wider than the kerosene tanks on the Atlas V and Antares launchers.

      And an updated Delta II or Delta III is doable and could be quite reliable and economical with 5 meter diameter, or larger, propellant tanks, large solid propellant boosters, and two or three Russian RD-181 engines each with 410,000 pounds of thrust, or two or three of the Ukrainian space industry’s new Yuzhnoye ‘s GU250s each with 551,000 pounds of thrust, or two or three of the new AR-1s each with 500,000 pounds of thrust, or possibly with one or two updated F-1As each with a thrust of about 1,800,000 pounds of thrust.

      Such a new 5 meter, or larger, diameter heavy launcher might be called a ‘Delta V Heavy’ and have large solid propellant boosters like those used with the SLS.

      Orbital ATK is in an excellent position to combine large solid propellant boosters and cores with large kerolox engines.

      See: ‘Investment, pricing helped Orbital beat Aerojet for rocket boosters: ULA’ October 2, 2015 By Andrea Shalal

      Future heavy versions of Orbital ATK’s Antares 230 launcher, or similar American ‘international’ launchers, might also someday feature large solid propellant boosters similar to those used with the SLS, and it is possible that kerolox GU250s or AR-1s or an RD-171 or even an updated F-1A might be used instead of the current RD-181s.

      And of course China and India are important spaceflight nations and are developing new large kerolox engines.

      See: “Semi-cryogenic Engine: ISRO Charting a Revised Plan” 02nd March 2015 by Tiki Rajwi

      And from ‘First Look: China’s Big New Rockets’ July 18th, 2012 By Craig Covault, “‘The YF-100, oxygen/kerosene engine with 120 metric tons of thrust for the new Long March-5 debuting in 2014 forms the technical basis for 330 metric tons thrust YF-330 single thrust chamber engine,’ said Vick.”

      Rocket Lab’s new kerolox Electron Launcher, and its future upgraded versions, will most likely be around for decades. The Electron is currently the planned launcher for some Lunar missions.

      And Russia’s new kerolox Angara 5 will most likely be around for many decades.

      Their Zenit and its first stage kerolox RD-171 engine wth 1,600,000 lbs of thrust at sea level may also be cost competitive far into the future.

      And their updated kerolox Soyuz-2 might be launching payloads for a very long time.

      Argentina is also developing the new kerolox Tronador II launcher.

      Kerolox isn’t “obsolete” and has a great future for reliable and economical launchers.

      And propane might be much more useful than methane.

      See: ‘ISRU Propellant Selection for Space Exploration Vehicles’ by Timothy T. Chen

      • Colorado

        “A mix of hydrogen and solid fuel boosters as used on the shuttle has long been recognized as the best combination for large launch vehicles.”

        “Japan with their H2 and H3 launchers and Europe with their Ariane 5 and Ariane 6 launchers also ‘like’ the combination of “A mix of hydrogen and solid fuel boosters”, however kerosene is not “an obsolete propellant”.

        If it was not obsolete then it would be flying on the Japanese and Ariane launchers. Solids have almost no moving parts while hydrogen turbopumps are the most expensive to design and build- these two poles are complementary while using turbopumps for kerosene engines that will either be expended or too coked up to be reused does not compliment.

        • James

          Colorado – “while using turbopumps for kerosene engines that will either be expended or too coked up to be reused does not compliment”

          Kerosene rocket engines can be economically and extensively reused. A notable example would be the Lockheed NF-104A’s Rocketdyne AR2-3 which burned a mixture of JP-4 jet fuel and 90% hydrogen peroxide to produce 6,000 lbs of thrust. Note that this rocket engine could also be throttled down by the pilot to approximately half the maximum thrust level.

          Many large and small kerolox engines are repeatedly and extensively tested here on Earth and do not seem to suffer from being “too cooked up”. Some are specifically designed with reuse as an option.

          Sulfur impurities in a propellant can cause serious cooking issues.

          Note also the The Soyuz-U2 korolox launcher that featured increased performance due to burning syntin propellant instead of the RP-1 paraffin type of fuel burned with the Soyuz-U.

          In 2000, Beal Aerospace tested their privately funded large and powerful BA-810 rocket engine for 21 seconds at McGregor, Texas. That engine produced 810,000 pounds of thrust in a vacuum from burning hydrogen peroxide/kerosene. It burned about 3,000 pounds of propellants per second and had around 6.7 million horsepower.

          The BA-810 rocket engine was planned to power Beal Aerospace’s BA-2 launcher that was designed to be a 236 feet tall heavy-lift launcher that could send around 13,200 pounds to GTO and about 37,400 pounds to LEO.

          From: ‘Comparative Study of Kerosene and Methane Propellant Engines for Reusable Liquid Booster Stages’ by Holger Burkhardt, Martin Sippel, Armin Herbertz, and Josef Klevanski December 2002 we find:
          “The payload performances of the reusable kerosene and methane booster are therefore almost identical with some edge for kerosene. In view of the increased size and dry mass of a reusable methane booster stage, one can expect a cost disadvantage for CH4 from a launch vehicle system level point of view.”

          Yep, kerosene isn’t “obsolete” and has a great future for reliable, reusable, and economical launchers.