Main Engine Cut Off

EELV LSA Selection “Sometime in August”

Sandra Erwin for SpaceNews:

The highly anticipated LSA selection was originally scheduled to be announced in July but has slipped to “sometime in August,” a spokeswoman for the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center told SpaceNews.

One source of intrigue in the LSA competition has been ULA’s new Vulcan Centaur vehicle, intended to replace the Atlas 5. The company was expected to choose a first-stage engine for the Vulcan before the next LSA source selection. But ULA CEO Tory Bruno said last week no decision had been made yet between Blue Origin’s BE-4 engine and Aerojet Rocketdyne’s AR-1.ULA picked Aerojet Rocketdyne’s RL-10 engine to power Vulcan’s upper stage.

Industry consultant Charles Miller, president of NexGen Space, speculated that ULA may have left the decision up to the Air Force. “My guess is that Tory is basically letting the Air Force choose his engine for him,” Miller told SpaceNews. ULA could have offered two options for Vulcan, one with the Aerojet engine and one with the Blue Origin engine.

This double-submission theory is something I’ve speculated about on the podcast and elsewhere in the past few months. The fact that we aren’t hearing the engine selection until the award announcement has me nearly completely convinced that’s the case.

I’d be pretty bummed, and that strategy would show a severe lack of confidence in and commitment to Vulcan from ULA’s parent companies—which isn’t necessarily surprising. But this thread from a few weeks back gives me a little something to look forward to in the AR1 configuration.