Mar 23 2015

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Good bye, Delta IV?

US to Scrap Delta IV Launch Vehicle in Favor of Russian-Made Rocket. Tony Bruno of ULA says that the Delta IV is completely redundant due to the Atlas V, and therefore ULA will retire it. However, the Atlas V uses the Russian RD-180 engine, which Congress will not support after 2019.

ULA expects to save money with only one rocket to support (if I were a ULA employee tied to the Delta IV, I’d get my resume polished up). However, on the surface this looks like at least a medium risk — if ULA doesn’t develop a new engine to replace the RD-180 by 2019, then they could lose government business.

Bruno wouldn’t have made this announcement unless either

  • He was positive that the BE-4 engine would be developed in time to replace the RD-180, or
  • He was positive that ULA had enough pull with Congress that, in the event that the BE-4 isn’t ready to go in 2019, he’d get a waiver to continue to operate with the RD-180 after 2019.

Probably both, but if I had to pick one or the other, I’d lean toward the Congress option.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.newspaceraces.com/2015/03/23/good-bye-delta-iv/

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