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Booster Propulsion and Launch System Request for Information (RFI) Methane powered RS-25M

September 17, 2014

DEPARTMENT OF THE AIR FORCE

HEADQUARTERS SPACE AND MISSILE SYSTEMS CENTER (AFSPC)

LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, CALIFORNIA

 

August 20, 2014

TO: All Potential Respondents

SUBJECT:  Booster Propulsion and Launch System Request for Information (RFI)

Reference: RFI No. 14-090 – Post Under Special Notice

 

  1. Background

Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) is considering an acquisition strategy to stimulate the commercial development of booster propulsion systems and/or launch systems for Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV)-class spacelift applications.  The Air Force has relied upon foreign sources for booster propulsion systems in the past. However, consistent with the 2013 National Space Transportation Policy, we are pursuing alternative domestic capability. The Government is seeking insight into booster propulsion and/or launch system materiel options that could deliver cost-effective, commercially-viable solutions for current and future National Security Space (NSS) launch requirements.   The Air Force needs this information to inform near term decisions about how to best ensure that future launch requirements are fulfilled by reliable, commercially-viable sources.

  1. Purpose

 

In order to maintain assured access to space, and get the best value for the taxpayer, the Air Force is requesting information from U.S. Industry to help determine the best way to ensure that future launch requirements can be met by reliable, commercially-viable sources of production.  The Air Force is open to a range of possible options including but not limited to: a replacement engine with similar performance characteristics to currently used engines, alternative configurations that would provide similar performance (such as a multiple engine configuration) to existing EELV-class systems, and use of alternative launch vehicles for EELV-class systems.  The Air Force is particularly interested in exploiting any available synergies with commercial space launch systems.  The Air Force is also highly interested in business opportunities for public-private ventures and would like to identify specific opportunities that capitalize on potential synergies between military and non-military space needs.

Additionally, this RFI is intended to give launch vehicle and propulsion system contractors an opportunity to comment on proposed program requirements as well as identify any needed risk reduction areas and possible technology maturation efforts.  In defining these objectives, the Government is interested in launch/propulsion strategies that are designed for affordability throughout the lifecycle and that potentially could result in greater U.S. competitiveness in the commercial space arena.  The government is also interested in how government-industry cost-sharing arrangements should be structured.  Results of this RFI may constitute sufficient market research for any follow-on procurement by SMC.  The Government encourages respondents to leverage analysis and work conducted in previous efforts.  This RFI is for market research purposes only.

  1. Technical Approach:

The Government needs to understand the contractor’s proposed propulsion and/or launch architecture mission capabilities in order to compare various technical and business solutions.

 

  1. Acquisition Approach:

The Government is currently evaluating various booster propulsion and launch system investments ranging from traditional government acquisition to shared investment between Government and Industry under public-private partnerships to stimulate the commercial development of such capabilities. The Government would welcome feedback from Industry members recommending strategies or creative development and/or production approaches which result in a cost-effective solution for the government and commercially-viable units for industry.  Proposed Industry investment strategies are encouraged to address the following criteria:

1)  The credibility and attractiveness of the business case to both Industry and Government, including how the business case closes (e.g., the balance of Government and Industry investment levels and the relationship of future launch commitments)

2)  The value and utility to Industry and Government stakeholders, including the ability to meet both commercial and Government launch needs

3)  The applicability and impact to the entire U.S. Government Launch System enterprise, with specific focus on the performance capability currently provided by the Atlas V launch vehicle system

4)  Risk implications for Industry and the Government.

5) Mission assurance for meeting US government launch requirements if non-military business opportunities do not meet expectations or do not materialize.

6) Mission assurance for meeting US government launch requirements if foreign sources of launch and/or propulsion are utilized.

  1. Questions

The Government is seeking the insight from propulsion system and launch system contractors.  The Government particularly requests Industry answer questions in sections 5A.1a and 5A.2a (propulsion supplier specific) and sections 5B.1a and 5B.2 (launch provider specific). All the remaining questions in Section 5, if applicable, should be answered to the extent possible in the time provided for responses.

5A   Propulsion System Contractors

5A.1a  Technical Questions

What solution would you recommend to replace the capability currently provided by the RD-180 engine?

  1. (A) A cryogenic Methane or LGN variant of the RS-25

(B)A funded space act agreement fly off between three methane powered engines, RS-68M, RS-25M and the Raptor.

NASA would pay a portion of the Space act agreement the air force would pay for the fully completed fly off mission.

The RS-25M could lend itself to multiple engine systems and possibly engine out.

These three systems could be inter operable with one another and with a cross feed component.

Special attention should be given to the idea cross feeding gelled Methane liquid hydrogen cross feed into a LH2/LO2 core

http://www.grc.nasa.gov/WWW/Fuels-And-Space-Propellants/GELLED.htm

 

and

 

http://patentscope.wipo.int/search/en/detail.jsf?docId=WO1992007808&recNum=1&tab=PCTDocuments&maxRec=&office=&prevFilter=&sortOption=&queryString=

 

 

  1. Do you believe such an engine could be developed to support multiple users and a range of launch requirements? What would you have to know about the various launch vehicles in order for you to build such a multi-use engine?     (A)    Fuel density, behaviors and ISP of a cryogenic hydrogen methane slush in a RS-68M, RS-25M and the Raptor as a SLS and Delta Heavy CBC and as a stand-alone core stage. Can we feed briefly a cryogenic slush to a liquid hydrogen only core stage ?
  1. What is your recommended propulsion system cycle and propellant combination for the propulsion system you propose?
  1. What is your recommended booster propulsion system performance for the lowest practical life cycle cost (e.g. sea level thrust, vacuum thrust, sea level Isp, vacuum Isp, throttling capability, weight, dimensions, schematics, etc.)? RS-25M Methane system shared between Air force and NASA as a SLS and Delta heavy CBC and as a stand-alone launcher combined with a Raptor based system( no crossfeed between the methane and hydrogen engines systems
  1. What are your key development technical risks, their current Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs), and mitigation plans? (A)The proposed crossfeed between the methane CBC and the hydrogen core stage is high risk and represents a R&D cost
  1. Provide the extent of compatibility of the new booster propulsion system with any existing and/or to-be-certified EELV-class launch vehicle(s) in terms of lift capability and propulsion/stage interface as appropriate. A methane powered RS-25M could be compatible with existing RS-68 and RS-25 Delta and SLS systems
  1. What changes to the existing launch pad infrastructure(s) used by the potential launch vehicles would have to be made to use such an engine? (A) combined LH2 and LCH4 systems for blending into gels or as standalone fuels for differing stages

5A.1b  Additional Technical Questions

  1. What are your current capabilities for developing/producing a propulsion system meeting the reference Requirements Document?
  1. If booster propulsion system concepts or designs currently exist within your company, provide plan/schedule to mature full-scale booster propulsion system/components to TRL 5 or greater.
  1. What is your past relevant propulsion development experience?
  1. Provide schedule to mature booster propulsion system manufacturing processes to a Manufacturing Readiness Level (MRL) of 7. MRL 7 is defined as: capability to produce systems, subsystems or components in a production representative environment. MRLs provide a better understanding of the maturity and risks involved with respect to the products manufacturing readiness.
  1. Describe test facilities (private, commercial, government) that would be used for propulsion components as well as integrated booster propulsion system /propulsion hot-fire testing for development and qualification.
  1. What is your recommended qualification test plan?
  1. What would you recommend to mitigate potential environmental impacts associated with your propulsion system (atmospheric contamination, manufacturing site, launch site, etc.)?

5A.2a   Acquisition Questions

  1. What are your recommendations to the USG regarding developing a new booster propulsion system, in particular, business arrangements (contractor teaming, shared investment, etc.) relating to propulsion system procurement and vehicle integration? (A)NASA space act agreement with substantial Air force contribution, private sector must contribute 25% or more. Three engines are guaranteed to fly it least once in a fly off competition and would be future buys in further competitions. keep RD-68 as is and fly a RP-1 vehicle as CBC.If RD-25M proves to be a good candidate for multiple engine stage for Delta and SLS this might be the engine of choice if we are looking for fuel density and gravity loss.
  1. Were the USG to seek a shared investment with you for propulsion system development, what co-investment arrangement would you likely seek to ensure a viable business case? How would the suggested co-investment be phased by Government Fiscal Year? Given the government’s need for both cost effective business arrangements and assured access to space and the need for data rights consistent with those goals, what data rights, if any, would you desire or require? (A)NASA and Air Force fund 70% of two to three engines to first flight, these manufactures are guaranteed to recover their costs later through work or some form of contract termination costs paid over time
  1. If applicable, what relationships would you recommend between yourself and launch vehicle providers (possibly more than one provider)? We propose to be consultants to contractors as a disabled veteran small business
  1. If your recommendations include the use of non-US sources, what are your recommendations to the USG regarding utilizing foreign-supplied propulsion systems and other components while developing US manufacturing capability?
  1. What is your recommended development and production schedule?
  1. How would your answers change if the USG needed to have a propulsion system in place at the earliest possible date and was prepared to accept some risk to achieve that goal?(A) A Methane powered RS-25 stand-alone stage with two engines using existing  common upper stages with Delta and the possibility of a RS-25 with a RS-68 core engine on a heavy variant. Use a space act agreement borrowed from NASA.NASA enter into a space act agreement for the Raptor with Air Force non funded cooperation. Sounds counter intuitive for the air force to adopt a NASA engine but this provides the multi-engine capability this RFP seems to ask for. SpaceX already has a launcher that might meet air force needs in the near future. Perhaps an Air force RS-25 Methane burner should be kept in the realm of possibility of commercial use, NASA no doubt would build it in house which would be unfortunate, and Rapter is beyond the reach of Government to turn into a purely government project and thus lends itself to NASA space act agreements.

                                                                                                                                          

5A.2b   Additional Acquisition Question

  1. What is your nominal and accelerated development schedule and costs? What is your production cost vs. production rate and learning rate assumptions?

5B   Launch System Contractors

 

5B.1a  Technical Questions

What solution would you recommend to replace the capability currently provided by the RD-180 powered Atlas V family of launch vehicles?

Methane/LGN powered RS-25 powered Delta in commonality with future Methane powered  SLS systems

  1. Do you believe an engine could be developed that support multiple users and a range of launch requirements? What complications do you see in using such an engine?
  1. Given the anticipated NSS referenced mission model (attached), Civil payload projections, the need for lower-cost and more responsive launch capability, what launch system solution (evolved or new) would you suggest best supports these needs? What portion of the NSS referenced mission model would your system support?
  1. What are your propulsion needs for your business model (e.g. need dates, recurring cost, thrust, Isp, engine/motor cluster strategy, and propellant combination, thrust to weight, mixture ratio, and throttling)?
  1. What are your key launch vehicle system risks, associated Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs), and mitigation plans?

5B.1b  Additional Technical Questions

 

  1. If you propose a new launch vehicle, what are your current capabilities for developing/producing a vehicle to support development of a launch system capable of supporting NSS and Civil missions?
  1. What is your past relevant launch vehicle development experience and current capabilities?
  1. Describe your launch architecture and booster propulsion specifications relevant to this RFI.
  • Provide an overall description of each configuration — dry mass, loaded mass, diameter, overall length, and general construction of each stage/element (include each stage’s propellant combination, mixture ratio, number of engines/motors, unit weight, sea level thrust, vacuum thrust, sea level Isp, vacuum Isp, and throttling capability).
  • Provide intended launch lift capability (e.g. mass-to-orbit for 100 nmi circular orbit at 28.5 deg inclination) and associated launch site(s).
  • Provide estimate of when each configuration will reach Initial Operational Capability (IOC) and Full Operational Capability (FOC).
  • Provide estimated average annual launch rate for each configuration at FOC.

 

 

5B.2  Acquisition Questions

 

  1. What are your recommendations to the USG regarding development of a booster propulsion system, in particular, business arrangements (contractor teaming, shared investment, etc.) relating to propulsion system development, procurement and integration into an existing or new launch system?
  1. Would a Government-developed booster propulsion system fit in your business model?
  • What is your current and/or to-be-certified EELV-class vehicle(s) that would use this propulsion system?
  • What would be needed for your business case to favor integration of such a booster propulsion system?
  • What system selection issues drive the cost of integrating such a booster propulsion system to your vehicle?
  • What booster propulsion system selection issues impact the launch system life cycle cost and schedule (development, production, and operations)?
  • What are your launch system and booster propulsion system development schedule and cost?
  • What are your launch system and booster propulsion system production cost vs. production rate and learning rate assumptions?
  1. Were the USG to seek a shared-investment path with you to create launch capability for USG spacecraft, what co-investment arrangement would you likely seek to ensure a viable business case? How would the suggested co-investment be phased by Government Fiscal Year? Given the government’s need for both cost effective business arrangements and assured access to space and the need for data rights consistent with those goals, what data rights, if any, would you desire or require?
  1. What is your recommended development and production schedule?
  1. Does your company plan on teaming with a propulsion system provider? If so, explain your teaming strategy.
  1. If your recommendations include the use of non-US sources, what are your recommendations to the USG regarding utilizing foreign-supplied propulsion systems and/or launch systems and other components while developing US manufacturing capability? What would your system look like if you were to utilize “US-only” sources for propulsion and other major critical systems?

Regarding any/all of the above questions, how would your answers change if the USG needed a system in place at the earliest possible date and was prepared to accept some risk to achieve that goal?

(A) develop on an accelerated schedule the proposed LNG/Methane RS-25M for a non cross fed Delta heavy for NSS missions with an RS-68 LH2 core.(B) accelerate a upper stage engine that is powered by LH2 with a 5% by weight LGN slush with its claimed 4 seconds ISP improvement over LH2/LO2 propellant.( see white paper above) 

  1. Industry Day and One-on-One Meetings

The Government plans to hold an initial Industry Day on 25-26 Sep 2014 at SMC.  Launch vehicle and propulsion system providers, as well as critical suppliers, are welcome.  As part of the Industry Day, there will be an option for prime launch and propulsion companies, who provide an RFI response, to meet with a Government team for one-on-one meetings for 60 minutes.  RFI respondents should indicate if they would like to schedule one-on-one meeting to present their inputs.

 


 

  1. Response Information

RFI responses are due 19 Sep 2014.  Supplemental information to provide more complete responses may be provided up until 1 October 2014.  All RFI questions should be sent to Ms. Tiffany Trotter and Kathleen Scholefield per the instructions below.

This RFI is being conducted for information and planning purposes only.  It does not constitute a request for proposal or a request for quote.  Information contained in this RFI is based on the best information available at the time of publication, is subject to revision and is not binding on  either the Government of the submitting firm.  The Government will not recognize any cost associated with a submission in response.  The RFI does not provide any authority for a change or adjustment to an existing contract or other form of agreement.  The information received will be considered for the purposes of market research.

This RFI is unrestricted and encourages responses from all responsible contractors independent of size.  Additionally, responses from small business and small, disadvantaged business firms are highly encouraged.  Firms responding should indicate if they are a small business, a socially and economically disadvantaged business, 8(a) firms, historically black colleges or universities, and minority institutions.  The NAICS 541712 size standard (1,000 employees) is applicable to the subcategory for “Guided missile and space vehicle engine research and development” (Classification code: “A” Research and Development).

Respondents shall provide responses electronically in Adobe Acrobat Exchange Portable Document Format (.pdf) (with copy/paste function enabled) on company letterhead with total page count limited to 50 pages, not including cover page and table of contents.  A page is defined as each face of an 8.5 x 11 inch sheet, single-spaced with text no smaller than 11-point font size, Times New Roman.  All graphics and figures (embedded as well stand-alone) must be legible and with text no smaller than 8 point font.  Margins shall be one-inch on all sides.

SMC has created an Integrated Product Team (IPT) to review RFI responses.  The Government-led team will include Aerospace (FFRDC) and System Engineering and Technical Assistance (SETA) contractors assigned to SMC and AFSPC.  The RFI team will sign government Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDA).  If your RFI response requires you have a NDA from any of the review team members, please contact Ms Tiffany Trotter via email by 28 Aug 2014.

The responses should be Unclassified (Controlled Unclassified information / For Official Use Only – CUI/FOUO).  If there is a need to send classified information, please contact one of the Government POCs identified below.  Please ensure proper marking, handling and distribution of your submittals.  Company Proprietary and Export Controlled information must be portion marked.

The Government will take all necessary steps to protect/safeguard any confidential/proprietary information provided.  The Government will NOT be responsible for any confidential/proprietary information not clearly marked.  This RFI is subject to FAR Clause 52.215-3, Request for Information or Solicitation for Planning Purposes.

Submissions of RFI should be sent to:

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4 Comments
  1. Robert Clark proposes a some what system the to ours here,

    http://exoscientist.blogspot.com/2013/10/a-spacex-heavy-lift-methane-rocket.html

    and here,

    http://exoscientist.blogspot.com/2014/09/a-spacex-heavy-lift-methane-rocket-page.html

    our system in the post above differs in that the CBC for SLS would Methane powered SSME’s that crossfeed into the Hydrolox core stage

    Like

  2. To get the high performance discussed in those posts would require altitude compensation. I discuss some possible methods here:

    Altitude compensation attachments for standard rocket engines, and applications.
    http://exoscientist.blogspot.com/2014/10/altitude-compensation-attachments-for.html

    Bob Clark

    Like

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Methane powered RS-25E 1.5 | Yellow Dragon, a mission to Venus
  2. methane powerd RS-25 (SSME) proposal for SLS and EELV 2.0 | Yellow Dragon, a mission to Venus

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