Main Engine Cut Off

AR1: An Engine in Search of a Launch Vehicle

Aerojet Rocketdyne announced their plans to produce the AR1 in Huntsville. Though, as of right now, they don’t actually have anything to produce the engines for. My favorite part of the announcement is this, from CEO and President Eileen Drake:

“The AR1 rocket engine is crucial to ensuring America’s assured access to space and making U.S. launch vehicles competitive across the globe.”

The AR1 is being developed to provide the United States with a new, world-competitive, state-of-the-art engine for launch vehicles and will end American dependency on Russian engines for national security and civil space launches.

The Atlas V—which was the original intended use-case for AR1—is being retired, and its successor, Vulcan, is almost certainly going to use Blue Origin’s BE–4. Tory Bruno said today that he expects to downselect between BE–4 and AR1 “very soon.” What that means is that as soon as Blue Origin completes a hot fire of the BE–4, ULA will officially declare that the engine for Vulcan.

I’ve speculated in the past about two uses I could foresee for AR1: an upgraded Antares, and unicorns the SLS’ advanced boosters. The AR1 is in no way crucial to ensuring America’s access to space, nor would it do anything to make launch vehicles competitive across the globe.