Replacing Russian Reliability

The AR1 rocket engine, a potential replacement for the Russian-made RD-180, is on track to be certified in 2019, Aerojet Rocketdyne’s senior vice president for strategy and business development said Tuesday. During a media briefing at ASC16, Jim Simpson touted the engine—developed by Aerojet Rocketdyne and Dynetics—as a reliable replacement for the RD-180 because it will use the same propellant and engine cycles as the Russian engine that has successfully powered the Atlas V rocket. The two companies are also performing full-scale tests of parts, some of which will be 3-D printed, to ensure reliability. “So we have a very step-wise, proven approach to getting where we think we need to be,” said Steve Cook, the vice president for corporate development at Dynetics. “It works. It will work. And in the end we think it’s going to be a lower cost, fastest approach to getting an engine in service.” The Air Force awarded Aerojet Rocketdyne a contract in March to enter into a public-private partnership with the service to build a replacement for the RD-180. Similar deals have been made with United Launch Alliance, Orbital ATK, and SpaceX.