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Air Force Requests Info For Replacement Atlas 5 Engine

timothy posted about a month ago | from the send-picture-of-rocket dept.

Transportation 108

schwit1 (797399) writes The U.S. Air Force on Thursday issued a request for information from industry for the replacement of the Russian-made engines used by ULA's Atlas 5 rocket: "Companies are being asked to respond by Sept. 19 to 35 questions. Among them: "What solution would you recommend to replace the capability currently provided by the RD-180 engine?" Air Force officials have told Congress they only have a broad idea of how to replace the RD-180. Estimates of the investment in money and time necessary to field an American-built alternative vary widely. Congress, meanwhile, is preparing bills that would fund a full-scale engine development program starting next year; the White House is advocating a more deliberate approach that begins with an examination of applicable technologies. In the request for information, the Air Force says it is open to a variety of options including an RD-180 facsimile, a new design, and alternative configurations featuring multiple engines, and even a brand new rocket. The Air Force is also trying to decide on the best acquisition approach. Options include a traditional acquisition or a shared investment as part of a public-private partnership. [emphasis mine]"

The Atlas 5 is built by Lockheed Martin. This is really their problem, not the Air Force or ULA. In addition, the Air Force has other options, both from Boeing's Delta rocket family as well as SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket.

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"Amid heightened tensions with Russia" (5, Insightful)

michaelmalak (91262) | about a month ago | (#47740029)

Perhaps the five most important words in TFA, omitted by TFS.

Re:"Amid heightened tensions with Russia" (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47740065)

Yeah, I know that there are tensions with Russia, because the wwe had a Russian wrestler running away from an American wrestler last night

what more do I need to know?

Re:"Amid heightened tensions with Russia" (1)

evilviper (135110) | about a month ago | (#47740159)

The relevant phrase is an old journalism chestnut:

  "Don't bury the lead!"

http://laurabrowncommunication... [laurabrown...ations.com]

Re:"Amid heightened tensions with Russia" (-1, Offtopic)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about a month ago | (#47740327)

Actually that is misspelled - it is supposed to be "don't bury the lede".

The site you've linked to also misspells it as "lead" - and the person who runs that site markets herself as a "writing coach and business writer".

Re:"Amid heightened tensions with Russia" (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47740409)

Both are acceptable herpity derp derp. http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/... [wiktionary.org]

Re:"Amid heightened tensions with Russia" (1)

nbauman (624611) | about a month ago | (#47740861)

You're going to believe an Internet dictionary?

Re:"Amid heightened tensions with Russia" (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47740917)

It's only bad if it's wrong.

It's interesting that you think you're a better source than a peer reviewed internet dictionary. Did you even go look it up?

Regardless, Journalism uses an alternate spelling. Either is fine. Your'e now informed.

If you doubt it I'd encourage you to get off your lazy ass and look it up. After that, if you want to do the right thing, you'd apologize to the people here. I doubt you have that in you, though. We'll see.

Re:"Amid heightened tensions with Russia" (0)

arglebargle_xiv (2212710) | about a month ago | (#47740981)

It's interesting that you think you're a better source than a peer reviewed internet dictionary.

Like Slashdot, a peer-reviewed Internet news site?

Re:"Amid heightened tensions with Russia" (2)

philip.paradis (2580427) | about a month ago | (#47741147)

Thank you for informing us that the term "journalism" has become a proper noun. I'm sure everyone is glad to know "you're" is now spelled "your'e" as well. Do you still feel clever?

Re:"Amid heightened tensions with Russia" (2)

phayes (202222) | about a month ago | (#47740955)

Given that lede is a recent invention that never caught on in many circles, I don't agree that both spellings are acceptable because it came from a web dictionary but because the web dictionary is right. A more traditional reference concurs. [merriam-webster.com]

Re:"Amid heightened tensions with Russia" (0)

evilviper (135110) | about a month ago | (#47740427)

I never understood what motivates pedants to waste everyone's time when nobody else cares.

Re:"Amid heightened tensions with Russia" (2)

ultranova (717540) | about a month ago | (#47741073)

I never understood what motivates pedants to waste everyone's time when nobody else cares.

Sexual perversion. Scroll down to number 1 [cracked.com] .

Re:"Amid heightened tensions with Russia" (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about a month ago | (#47740865)

Perhaps they speak English and not American.
In that case, the correct word is "lead"

Re:"Amid heightened tensions with Russia" (1)

FatLittleMonkey (1341387) | about a month ago | (#47741695)

No. If you are using the phrase, "Don't bury the lede", specifically to invoke that journalistic cliché, then only the jargon (retro-neologism) spelling is acceptable. Never respell quotes. If you are just generally discussing the lead paragraph in an article, then it's fine to use whatever spelling is familiar to you, as I just did.

Re:"Amid heightened tensions with Russia" (1)

pepty (1976012) | about a month ago | (#47741779)

Unless you are using a specific quote from a specific journalist that really doesn't matter: both spellings are now in common usage when using the phrase. If your audience is likely to include people persnickety about journalism, use lede. Now can we finish off the grammarians who insist that fewer be used instead of "less than"? Just because because it was "proper" english for a short period of time doesn't mean we are stuck with the rule indefinitely.

Re:"Amid heightened tensions with Russia" (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about a month ago | (#47742963)

On the contrary, if your audience is likely to include people persnickety about journalism, use lead. It's more entertaining.

Wealthiest Buy F-35 (-1, Offtopic)

Geom Guy (3796035) | about a month ago | (#47740099)

The Republican House Appropriators Add More F-35s for 2015
The House Appropriations Committee has included funding for 38 of the fifth-generation fighters, FOUR MORE than the Defense Department requested for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1
The SECOND time in the last 4 years the House GOP gives the Pentagon MORE than they asked for.
(So much for fiscal responsibility. Politicians keep beating their chests claiming they don't overspend. It's always the other guy that's the problem.)

Top War Contractors Among The Nation's Wealthiest
There's the top 1% of wealthy Americans (bankers, oil tycoons, hedge fund managers) and there's the top 0.01% of wealthy Americans: the military contractor CEOs.

Politicians keep beating their chests claiming they don't overspend. It's always the other guy that's the problem.

Re:Wealthiest Buy F-35 (1)

epyT-R (613989) | about a month ago | (#47740437)

wow.. the taxpayers will have a lot of f35s in their back yards....oh wait. the taxpayer just gets the bill in the form of higher taxes and higher inflation.. oh well.

Re:Wealthiest Buy F-35 (5, Insightful)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about a month ago | (#47740461)

First off, this is entirely off-topic. Apart from being built under the name "Lockheed Martin", the Atlas V is completely unrelated.to the F-35. Even that connection is a stretch, as they're managed under completely different divisions, and the Atlas is actually being built by a partnership between Lockheed Martin and Boeing [wikipedia.org] .

Second, you're only citing half of the story. The DoD originally asked for 42 [dodbuzz.com] F-35s, but had to cut back the order to 34 due to sequestration. The House Appropriations Committee denied some of the Pentagon's other requests, and moved that money into purchasing the additional F-35s.

Finally, I find it interesting that your very first post to Slashdot is a heavily partisan off-topic piece, very nearly quoted verbatim from the article I've linked, but conveniently missing the paragraph that gives an even perspective to the matter. I have a sneaking suspicion you're not intending to improve this discussion.

Re:Wealthiest Buy F-35 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47740525)

All good points, it is telling that the alternative to ULA's 'lowest cost provider' engines would have to be ULA's competitors Space-X and Orbital Sciences
Maybe they should be spending money on R&D instead of Congress and astro-turfing

Re:Wealthiest Buy F-35 (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47740529)

the Atlas V is completely unrelated.to the F-35

But you forget that Republican xians are too stupid to understand that. Their kind is not capable of comprehending the difference between a rocket and a fighter jet, so to them they are exactly the same thing. When discussing them, it is correct to group them together. They are the same thing to those people.

Re:Wealthiest Buy F-35 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47740905)

They are exactly the same thing, similar to but quite unlike all men are created equal.
If China puts a yellow man on the moon before the U.S. puts a black man on mars, there is going to be riots. Wake up white people, your dreams are coming true.

Re:Wealthiest Buy F-35 (1)

Kalium70 (3437049) | about a month ago | (#47741355)

In the US, we can't even do things that we used to be able to do. We used to be able to go to the moon, but we can't do that anymore. Next, we mothballed the space shuttle fleet without having a via replacement. Now we're dependent on Russia to get to the ISS. Good thing we have such a cozy relationship with Russia. Oh, wait. We managed to royally piss them off. It seems kind of like being stranded in the desert, and we give the finger to the only car that passes by.

Re:Wealthiest Buy F-35 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47741437)

Also, if we did find ourselves in a situation like this back then, we wouldn't study it to death. We'd go build something and if, in the course of doing so we discovered that we should really be doing something else, we'd do that too or instead of.

Witness the huge number of airplane and rocket types we developed in the 1950s and 1960s vs. our inability to make even one or two models of a given type (fighter/bomber/satellite carrying rocket) today. Granted, a good lot of those designs were crap, but we learned something from each of them and most did something at least a little useful while they were in service. Now we just try to plan stuff without doing, we don't accept ANY failure of any kind ever, anywhere and as a result we accomplish nothing.

Re:Wealthiest Buy F-35 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47740471)

they don't overspend unless it's in their state, in which came it's national security

rocket engine problems, this is what happens when nasa gets no money

Makers! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47740109)

To your 3D printers! It's the future, right? I mean we 3D print cars, houses and rockets now, right?

Re:Makers! (2)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a month ago | (#47740201)

Rocket engines are already being printed.

Re:Makers! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47740263)

No, they aren't, just one part, and even that still needs finishing by "luddite" tools in a gloopy factory.

Re:Makers! (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a month ago | (#47740455)

What "just one part"?

Re:Makers! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47740483)

What "rocket engine" is 3D printed?

Re:Makers! (2)

0123456 (636235) | about a month ago | (#47740515)

None, that I'm aware of. However, SpaceX have 3D printed oxidizer valves for the Merlin engines, and combustion chambers for the Draco thrusters.

At the rate things are going, they'll probably be 3D printing entire engines before the replacement for the RD-180 is finished.

Re:Makers! (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a month ago | (#47740605)

Given that SuperDracos are pressure-fed, not pump-fed, the combustion chamber is the engine.

Re:Makers! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47740621)

Ah, technically correct, the last defense of the cornered liar.

Re:Makers! (5, Informative)

catchblue22 (1004569) | about a month ago | (#47740577)

What "rocket engine" is 3D printed?

The nozzle for the Superdraco engine [wikipedia.org] is 3d printed. The alloy is too hard to machine, so 3D printing is the only practical way of manufacturing them. It will be the landing thruster for the propulsive landing Dragonfly crew vehicle. It will land with the accuracy of a helicopter. Here is a video [youtube.com] of it being cycled through its various thrust levels. Very cool.

Re:Makers! (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about a month ago | (#47740643)

Too late. I wore it out printing nukes

buy nothing (2)

fish waffle (179067) | about a month ago | (#47740129)

Seriously, spend your war budget on something useful instead of international e-peni.

Let's do what every other third world country does (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47740131)

Let's just copy the RD180. I doubt it has any patent ecumberances.

Re:Let's do what every other third world country d (1)

cerberusti (239266) | about a month ago | (#47740339)

TFA states that they are considering it.

It also states that we were supposed to set up our own production line quite some time ago, but never did so as it was cheaper to continue buying them directly.

Re:Let's do what every other third world country d (4, Insightful)

FatLittleMonkey (1341387) | about a month ago | (#47741741)

LM's been in a staring contest with the USAF for years, each trying to get the other to pay for the development of a domestic version of the RD-180. The USAF just blinked.

Re:Let's do what every other third world country d (4, Interesting)

donscarletti (569232) | about a month ago | (#47740481)

Let's just copy the RD180. I doubt it has any patent ecumberances.

They've already licensed the damn thing for domestic production from the beginning and had a good decade where they could have set up their own factory and had the Russians come in and willingly ensure they are being produced correctly and fix any detail not conveyed properly on the plans. In fact, I believe that the RD-180 is more of a work-for-hire specifically commissioned for Lockheed's requirements.

Now everything is sour and steps to remedy it look political, rather than just a way of giving jobs for American blue collar labour, which is how it would have appeared before.

The RD-180 is a good engine that provides staged combustion performance and efficiency at similar cost to American gas generator cycle engines. The only problems with it is that it was really hard to design, which is irrelevant when you have the plans anyway. It would be a shame for NIH syndrome to screw up America's capability to launch satellites.

Re:Let's do what every other third world country d (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47740845)

The only problems with it is that it was really hard to design, which is irrelevant when you have the plans anyway.

You also need the plans for the machines needed for production as well. The RD-180 uses some slightly exotic metallurgy that

Re:Let's do what every other third world country d (2)

ausoleil (322752) | about a month ago | (#47740943)

ULA / GenCorp (who acquired Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne in 2013) has the right to produce the RD-180 domestically as part of its partnership with NPO Energomash.

Since they have the plans, access to the current production line and certainly the ability to make the engine, patent encumbrances would not be an issue.

The problem is cost -- the RD-180 is very labor intensive to make, and it would also require tooling, testing, certification and undoubtedly test flights to bring the US-made version to equivalence of the Russian one. It may be cheaper to use a new design and start from scratch.

Re:Let's do what every other third world country d (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47741069)

Why not just buy them from North Korea, India or Pakistan?

They should just ask schwit1 (1)

tomhath (637240) | about a month ago | (#47740153)

Companies are being asked to respond by Sept. 19 to 35 questions. Among them: “What solution would you recommend to replace the capability currently provided by the RD-180 engine?”

Apparently submitter knows a lot more than the Air Force does when it comes to booster rockets.

Re:They should just ask schwit1 (1)

epyT-R (613989) | about a month ago | (#47740441)

Internally Metered Pulse drives of course.

Raptor? (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a month ago | (#47740187)

Ten bucks say that SpaceX could have Raptor operational before the ULA manages to draft their new engine. (Maybe I just feel like being sarcastic right now. Maybe I don't, though...)

Re:Raptor? (1)

chromaexcursion (2047080) | about a month ago | (#47740275)

They do. but they're not an authorized contractor. and the paper work takes years.
welcome to stupid government.

for military contractors, the paper works is EXPENSIVE!, last I heard, space-X wasn't interested in paying that freight. Odd that Russian engines are OK.
Perhaps Caesar was correct, though forced into a situation he despised, he offered a choice, accept or die. The current bureaucratic morass is evidence that the rules must change. There isn't time for the bureaucrats to muddle.
A sad state of affairs

Re:Raptor? (5, Insightful)

stoploss (2842505) | about a month ago | (#47740297)

You know that the bureaucrats eventually "won" in Rome, right?

Rome collapsed under the weight of its complacent, entrenched bureaucracy. After Marcus Aurelius, every subsequent Caesar had less ability to change the trajectory of the Empire thanks to the political realities imposed by the bureaucracy. They had to act within the constraints of the previously established bureaucracies. Did you know that eventually Roman bureaucrats granted themselves military ranks? Bureaucrats also chose the last of the Western Emperors.

Bureaucracy is a cancer.

Re:Raptor? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47740551)

True. On the other hand, it provided stability during times of some of the most ridiculous people to ever live.

Re:Raptor? (4, Funny)

PPH (736903) | about a month ago | (#47742059)

All right, but apart from the sanitation, medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh water system and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?

Re:Raptor? (3, Informative)

clovis (4684) | about a month ago | (#47740553)

You know that the bureaucrats eventually "won" in Rome, right?

Rome collapsed under the weight of its complacent, entrenched bureaucracy. After Marcus Aurelius, every subsequent Caesar had less ability to change the trajectory of the Empire thanks to the political realities imposed by the bureaucracy. They had to act within the constraints of the previously established bureaucracies. Did you know that eventually Roman bureaucrats granted themselves military ranks? Bureaucrats also chose the last of the Western Emperors.

Bureaucracy is a cancer.

Attributing the fall of the Roman empire to a single cause is just plain wrong.

Re:Raptor? (5, Interesting)

stoploss (2842505) | about a month ago | (#47740753)

I'm not attributing it to a single cause anymore than one can attribute death by cancer to any specific individual cell.

The very establishment of the Principate held the seeds of its own demise, but that's like saying the ultimate cause of death is being born. The legal fictions chosen in order to establish the Augustan Principate allowed Augustus to have a fig leaf to cover his dictatorial powers while still styling himself "mere" Princeps ("First Citizen") had unintended consequences. He technically did NOT consolidate all the power into a single office; he technically didnt even abolish the traditional system of appointments. The legal fiction was that all these mechanisms were still in place, it's just that Augustus held all the top offices. Imagine if we had a President who was also Chief Justice, Speaker of the House, President of the Senate, etc, and everyone else in Congress and the Supreme Court was afraid to cross him.

You can see that executing responsibilities of all those offices is a lot of work. The last Caesar to bust his ass trying to discharge the responsibilities of all those offices was Marcus Aurelius. Commodus couldn't be fucking bothered, as he wanted to play games. However, instead of allowing that office to revert to the pre-principate form he started layering on bureaucracy. To revert to the Republican system would be to release power, and technically he was still in control of what the bureaucracy did.

Bureaucracies never die without killing their host as well. Bureaucrats love their sinecures, power, and income and will fight to keep them. Therefore, delegating power turned into a ratchet effect.

Over the centuries, the ratchet clicked many times and layers upon layers of bureaucracy formed. This is a heavy toll on an economy, and taxes rose to match. Of course, the Romans never really came up with a good taxation system (c.f. tax farming).

Reforms under Severus, Constantine, Diocletian, et al, were adjustments within a fixed range of trajectory. As the Western Empire got closer to the end, reforms could only adjust the trajectory in a small way... much like you can't cut out cancer that has metastasized to vital organs.

All this contributed massively to undermine the ability of the Empire to adapt as well as diminishing the value to the individual of being part of the Roman "Commonwealth". If you're a taxpayer who is funding this massive bureaucracy and you can't perceive all this expense is to your net benefit, how hard are you going to fight to keep the barbarians away?

If a patient with metastatic cancer dies of pneumonia, what killed him?

Re:Raptor? (1)

clovis (4684) | about a month ago | (#47741893)

I'm not attributing it to a single cause anymore than one can attribute death by cancer to any specific individual cell.

And then you continue attributing it to the single cause of bureaucracy.

Re:Raptor? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47741907)

"If a patient with metastatic cancer dies of pneumonia, what killed him?"

Um, pneumonia?

Re:Raptor? (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | about a month ago | (#47740573)

Bureaucracy is a cancer.

You forgot the part of your argument where you compare today's generally non-partisan bureaucracy with that of the Romans who gave themselves military rank.

And I'm not sure how you expect to have a government (or even a large corporation) without bureaucrats.
What's your alternative?

Re:Raptor? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47740659)

Automated civil procedures. Why are computers good enough to self-drive cars and airplanes with hundreds of people in them, but not to process the minutia of government?

Because they don't have "military" ranks, but human nature means they have a pecking order in there...

Re:Raptor? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47740737)

Who creates the "automated civil procedures"? Are we just going to let the Devs make the laws for the country?

Re:Raptor? (1)

Antonovich (1354565) | about a month ago | (#47740749)

Yes! Yes! Yes! I believe that whether you consider capitalism or socialism to be the best way to structure society there are a couple of things that society (the government?) has to take care of, namely health, education and a couple of key infrastructure elements (maybe just the power, road and rail networks). In order for people to have complete knowledge, perfect rationality and an unimpeded capacity to compete, then everyone needs a great education and top quality free healthcare. We can't have 17 different roads to get somewhere either, at least not before safe and cheap flying cars get invented.

But bureaucracy is just evil and should be public enemy No. 1 everywhere. Corruption, cronyism and nepotism by the mandarins create distortions that almost guarantee society will be unjust for many, whatever the system. Let technology optimise away all this nastiness and let people get on with it!

Re:Raptor? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47740787)

Pecking order in Congress is on how long you've been reelected. How stupid is that?

Re:Raptor? (2)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a month ago | (#47740607)

We still let bureaucrats choose today's emperors. We are living Greco-Roman antiquity, but with faster chariots, and less horse crap in the streets.

Re:Raptor? (1)

MachineShedFred (621896) | about a month ago | (#47746883)

No, there's still plenty of horse shit being tossed around. Probably more.

It might be metaphorical horse shit, but it's still there.

Re:Raptor? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47740819)

Rome collapsed under the weight of giving up its public welfare in the name of profiteering for a landed few.

Re:Raptor? (1)

khallow (566160) | about a month ago | (#47741271)

You should look at the role of public welfare in a system like the Roman empire. It was used from fairly early on as a bribe to the public by a variety of elites (including the occasional "landed few") to buy and hold power.

Re:Raptor? (1)

im_thatoneguy (819432) | about a month ago | (#47740911)

Are you suggesting that slowly transitioning a totalitarian state run by a single dictator into some semblance of a democracy is comparable to a cancer?

I was with you all along the way until you concluded that the elimination of a dictator was a bad outcome. I would say the Bureaucrats won as did Rome when freed from the tyranny of the Caesars.

Re:Raptor? (1)

stoploss (2842505) | about a month ago | (#47742013)

Totalitarianism was developed in the 20th century. Please don't conflate that with the autocracy of the emperors, and, for that matter, don't conflate bureaucracy and democracy.

That said, the real tragedy was the demise of the Roman Republic, which had separation of powers with strong checks and balances, designed specifically to prevent an autocracy. That's why Augustus' legal fictions that established the Principate were so deviously clever. In fact, that fiction was kept up until the fourth century (if memory serves) before any Caesar had the gall to claim a title that was monarchial.

However, to your point, the bureaucracy is a cancer because these are individuals who generally have no direct accountability to the public at large. In the republic, this power was decentralized and more local. This is somewhat like the principle of federalism the US was founded with but has been increasingly disavowing since the 19th century.

So, what I'm saying is that you proposed a false dichotomy. The choice should not be between autocracy and cancerous, centralized bureaucracy. It should have been whether or not to abolish the crazy emperors and return to the stable Republic that had brought Rome prosperity for centuries. No system is perfect, but centralizing power in a practically unaccountable bureaucracy is extremely deleterious.

Re:Raptor? (1)

ultranova (717540) | about a month ago | (#47741133)

After Marcus Aurelius, every subsequent Caesar had less ability to change the trajectory of the Empire thanks to the political realities imposed by the bureaucracy. They had to act within the constraints of the previously established bureaucracies.

You're almost speaking as if the rulers having a check on their power was a bad thing. And of all the rulers you could had chosen, you chose the infamously nasty and insane Roman emperors.

Is your post supposed to be some kind of parody?

Re:Raptor? (1)

stoploss (2842505) | about a month ago | (#47742103)

You're almost speaking as if the rulers having a check on their power was a bad thing.

That may have been how it seemed, but that's not what I was trying to communicate. The real solution was to return to the Republic, which was stable, had separation of powers, strong checks and balances, and so on.

When I was talking about constraints, I meant things like how eventually new Caesars had to pay the Praetorian Guard multiple years worth of salary upon taking power because previous Caesars had done so. As for the bureaucracy, the ratchet clicked (and the layers and expense grew) because the emperors wanted to strip power from regional governors and generals who were ready to usurp. The Caesars had their hand forced in these regards. Yes, it's a check on their absolute power, but not really in a positive sense: bribery, centralization of administration that had previously been decentralized, etc.

Of course, all these perverse incentives were a nonissue in the Republic.

If you are interested in the decline and fall of Rome from a more academic perspective than Gibbon's classical work, I suggest "How Rome Fell" by Goldsworthy. It's very well-written and full of citations. The book doesn't promote any "favored theory" for collapse, unlike many of the other works on the subject.

Re:Raptor? (4, Interesting)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about a month ago | (#47740397)

They do. but they're not an authorized contractor. and the paper work takes years.
welcome to stupid government.

I've done government work. The bulk of required paperwork is a full accounting of absolutely everything being billed to the government. Every minute worked by every employee must be logged, and every expense must be justified. It's all an attempt to reduce the chance of defrauding the government, and indirectly the taxpayers.

Yes, current contractors charge a lot, but despite outside opinion, they can justify every expense. Sure, an efficiency-loving Congress could cut out the paperwork, but that opens the door for any company with a promise of a product to overcharge. At least they could scam the government efficiently.

Re:Raptor? (1)

jd (1658) | about a month ago | (#47740703)

They often do. Before, they always did. Absolutely standard practice.

It would be better if the government wouldn't buy anything, even from vendors of vendors, without full accounting. If you can game the system with shells, you might as well not have a system.

Having said that, there's a lot of creative billing because of the specifics of how the paperwork is done, and there's a lot of creative bidding where costs are deliberately deflated or ignored (all for the very best of reasons, I'm sure) with the upshot that the actual cheapest bid isn't necessarily the one that's cheapest on paper, and where actual costs can be 2-3 times the provisional guesstimates.

And, no, contractors actually don't charge a lot. People get out of government work and into purely private enterprise not because the jobs are better (they're usually far worse) but because the pay can be double. That's why government contractors get such a bad image. That's not where the talent pool is. The "get up and go" got up and went. The brain drain is not pretty.

If government wanted people with skills doing the skilled jobs required, they need to outbid the Googles of the world. They need talent with the calibre to get the job done right. The first time. Talent that doesn't have fighter pilots blanking out from lack of oxygen because they actually bothered to design things that work. Talent that doesn't have glass-cockpit aircraft carriers dead in the water because of a division by zero error in a Windows application.

The starting price needs to be higher. Much, much higher. Not only to be realistic, but to be realistic with the people needed to MAKE it realistic.

Re:Raptor? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47741501)

The bulk of required paperwork is a full accounting of absolutely everything being billed to the government. Every minute worked by every employee must be logged, and every expense must be justified. It's all an attempt to reduce the chance of defrauding the government, and indirectly the taxpayers.

This. The reason for this stuff is because if you don't do those things, then it becomes a scandal. People (whether they admit it or not) WANT these things. Nobody ever accurately explains the cost of it of course. Sometimes waste and fraud actually costs less than preventing waste and fraud. That is, you need proper controls sized to the risk level, not absolute controls sized to preventing any possible negative outcome. Look at how conservatives are always trying to put controls on welfare payments to prevent abuse which does exist but in relatively small numbers, and what they actually end up doing (purposefully, I think) is preventing the programs from functioning. It's the same thing with programs like this. They'd cost a lot less otherwise, but then you'd lose the 'accountability' that the majority of people think comes magically for free somehow.

Re:Raptor? (1)

PPH (736903) | about a month ago | (#47742027)

for military contractors, the paper works is EXPENSIVE!, last I heard, space-X wasn't interested in paying that freight.

Good. That whole system was set up as a protection racket run by the likes of Boeing, Lockheed and its ilk.

Pentagon wants to buy some technology by a small outfit? Fine. Order it on line, just like everyone else does. Pentagon says, "Boo hoo! We can't do it that way. You have to fill out this truckload of paper. Or sell through one of the big contractors." (Who are just office building full of paper pushers set up to re-brand Chinese technology and pass it on as their own with a big markup.) Small firm says, "Screw the big contractors. Go on line and order it just like everyone else."

Chinese army wants to order the same tech. Gets told to go on line and order it. No problem. Paid in full through PayPal. Send us the hardware.

Re:Raptor? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47740351)

Shouldn't they be able to 3D print all that now? Just download and print?

Fuck Lockheed (1)

chromaexcursion (2047080) | about a month ago | (#47740231)

Lockheed decided to go with a Russian Engine. There seems so be a problem with that now.
Time to make bad choices matter!
It Lockheed can't deliver a launch vehicle, there should be a penalty. Sadly in these contracts there is no penalty. But they don't get paid, and Space X and Boeing can pick up the slack.
It's time defense contractors payed for failure to deliver
This won't bankrupt Lockheed, but it better hurt, hurt bad
A year on year loss due to stupid management would send a good message. We'll let you live, but not if you fuck up
Make it hurt!

Re:Fuck Lockheed (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47740315)

Sorry about posting AC. Technically, Pratt and Whitney was supposed to (and is licensed to) produce the RD-180 in the US. But it seems that P&W continued to source from Russia instead of tooling up and building locally.

Here's a wiki link (not to be confused with wiki-leaks)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RD_Amross

I hope that helps frame the question better.

Re:Fuck Lockheed (2)

chromaexcursion (2047080) | about a month ago | (#47740501)

Well known and understood. But P&W deserves to burn for this failure.
A a manager of mine used to say "failure to plan, is not my problem".
The general contractor is at fault for all failures, except it seems with the US military. That needs to change.
These companies exist in a notion of the world that they can't fail. They need to have a few negative quarters!
Perhaps even fail, though with some of the infrastructure that isn't possible.
Lockheed made their bet. They can eat it. Congress is too stupid to understand. Yet again it will take an executive order to sort this out.

Re:Fuck Lockheed (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47740519)

I thought Lockheed just supplied the atlas rockets. The government is the one choking off the external engine supplies. Obama needs to pay for this, out of his own pocket! His disrespect for the great leader Putin is costing us all money.

Re:Fuck Lockheed (1)

jd (1658) | about a month ago | (#47740675)

Nobody is going to increase their expenses voluntarily. Especially on something like a rocket, where local disasters are very public and very expensive. And doubly not in a situation where increasing the cost of the contract would be a political nightmare likely solved by the contract moving to someone else buying from Russia.

When money talks, nobody asks questions.

Re:Fuck Lockheed (1)

budgenator (254554) | about a month ago | (#47744471)

Nobody is going to increase their expenses voluntarily.

If your contract has a stipulated profit margin, you can increase your gross profit by increasing expenses; so yes it does happen. Defense contractors throw parties when DoD changes the specs letting them increases expenses.

Re:Fuck Lockheed (1)

PPH (736903) | about a month ago | (#47742095)

Pratt and Whitney was supposed to (and is licensed to) produce the RD-180 in the US.

Contract language to that effect? If so, they failed to like up to the terms.

Re:Fuck Lockheed (2)

jd (1658) | about a month ago | (#47740667)

It's what you get in a market economy. Sorry, but outsourcing is cheaper and the cheaper product will win over the better product 99 times out of 100. Especially when it comes to government, where they're legally obliged to go with the cheapest bid.

That's just the way the country is set up. Anyone with a brain would tell you that outsourcing even across State lines, never mind international boundaries, carries political risk. The nation decided, rightly or wrongly, that saving money was more important. If the roll of the dice is against you, well, too bad. That happens.

It also carries geological risks. Putting all the chip factories in one earthquake-prone zone in Asia - and, indeed, along the same bloody faultline, was a marvelous piece of risk management. Penny wise, pound foolish, as us Brits usually say. After the fact and rarely before.

That brings me to the related point of putting vital infrastructure in dangerous locations.

Silicon Valley (a highly polluted zone that exports contaminated water at vast expense to places that dump the water back into Silicon Valley's water sources) is a remarkable piece of stupidity, being as it is, situated on one fault line and close enough to another. Silicon Forest (Oregon/Washington State) has taken up some of the IT load, but given that the locations are still on the Ring of Fire and thus still in dangerously unstable territory, the industry has successfully doubled the chances of catastrophe.

Most of the design engineers not located in these places are in India (a nice, stable location with no deadly diseases rampaging through the countryside and no risk of religious civil war or war with any neighbouring country), Israel (ditto except for the disease AFAIK), China (great choice, no problems there!) and Jaan (not the least bit likely to get into a conflict with neighbours, have power stations explode, suffer earthquakes or tsunamis, or lunatic politicians hell-bent on causing a crisis).

Re:Fuck Lockheed (3, Informative)

dunkelfalke (91624) | about a month ago | (#47740853)

In this case, the engine was not only cheaper but also better.

Re:Fuck Lockheed (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47740851)

They went with a Russian engine as opposed to having to spend 100's of millions if not billions developing their own as Russia are the only country that produce an engine of the required size.

It's worse than you think (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47740897)

The "Atlas V" is not really an "Atlas" at all nor should it be numbered "V" and the whole thing is an anti-American crony-capitalist play. Let me explain:

The "Atlas" rockets which gained fame both as ballistic missiles and as the launch vehicle that put John Glenn in orbit were designed and built by Americans at the Convair plan in Kearny Mesa California (northern portion of greater San Diego). The modern "Atlas" is NOT a direct descendant (EVERYTHING about it is different except for the fuel and LOX) and is NOT designed and built by the men who designed and built the real Atlas (who were left behind along with the Kearny Mesa facilities). It's made by different peopple at a different LockMart facility and with Russian Engines (CLEARLY no ties to the American "Atlas") and was only named "Atlas V" as a marketing gimmick (The next production Atlas WAS to be the "IV" but Boeing was rolling-out the "Delta IV" as a competitor at the time so the LockMart folks bumped the number to "V" as a marketing play).

The "anti-American" part is BOTH because American rocket engine designers and builders were tossed-aside in favors of Russians to save money AND because it put a critical bit of US Government capability in a spot of vulnerability to the VERY SAME RUSSIA that LockMart uses as a big threat that makes the American Taxpayer NEED the uber-expensive over-budget, behind-schedule, under-performing, super-turkey F-35 jet... which LockMart makes, (of course).

The "crony" part is because Boeing and LockMart were allowed to merge their launch business into ULA (creating a total monopoly on US launch vehicles) to "save the tax payers money" but instead with a monpoly costs have skyrocketed (as though ANYBODY couldn't see THAT coming!). As part of the current "cozy" relationship between the federal government and the guys it pays to lauch payloads, the government shovels about a BILLION dollars per year for "assured access to space"..... NOT for any launches, which it buys on top of this fee. Now that SpaceX and Orbital are operating new launch vehicles (which are NOT part of the profitable ULA monopoly) and Russia is becoming more of a problem. the supply of engines for Faux-Atlas are threatened nobody at NASA or the USAF or LockMart are talking about "assured access" and the billions payed-out by taxpayers for it. A new engine is needed for Faux-Atlas and, like bad Wall St bankers, the so-called "commercial" entity does not want to spend the money to bail itself out of the spot that it put itself into; it is demanding a bailout and its "good friends" in government (some of whom, no-doubt, want to move from government careers to second careers in industry) are eager to bail it out (in the interests of "national security", of course). What commercial company wouldn't love to get billions of dollars to buy new components so it could better compete againsts competitors who are not getting that free money? If the taxpayer is forced to buy LockMart a new engine for its Faux-Atlas, then to keep things fair, the taxpayers should also buy new engines for Boeing, SpaceX, Orbital, and Blue Origin (and why not Virgin Galactic and StratoLaunch too while we're at it?>>)

LockMart should be left alone (just as the Wall St Bankers should have been) and when the supply of RD-180s runs out and they are unable to fly Faux-Atlas (and thereby unable to fulfull the launch contracts they locked-in with the US Government (the subject of the SpaceX lawsuit)), they should be driven into bankruptcy (just as the Wall St Bankers should have been) and their executives jailed for fraud (as the Wall St Bankers should have been). There was a STENCH to that Air Force "block buy" launch contract that was put in place just before SpaceX could get "certified" for USAF launches (by a process Lockmart never had to undergo) and it stinks MORE now that the feds are looking to buy LockMart an engine to help it fulfill that contract. The destruction of the giant defense contractor (like the collapse of the big Wall St Banks) would NOT harm the US significantly (Other, responsibly-run, banks, most of whom were not involved in the 2008 meltdown, would have immediately moved into the hole left in Wall St just as other Aerospace firms, like Orbital, SpaceX, Sierra Nevada, etc would immediately move into the crater left by LockMart). This US was BUILT on the "creative destruction" in which "bad actors" go down leaving a hole in the market for newer better companies to rise - and one of the reasons we suck more these days is that we do NOT let bad actors go bust.

CronyCapitalism sucks. It keeps "bad actors" who are politically-connected alive and on top of the market, when by free-market rules they ought to fail as natural punishment for their bad actions. It also prevents newer better companies, with better ideas and better behavior from rising to fill the market holes that appear whn bad actors are allowed to fail. (For good examples of crony capitalism see: defense industries, wall st banks, and airlines in the Unites States)

Re:It's worse than you think (4, Insightful)

hackertourist (2202674) | about a month ago | (#47741977)

Bullshit.

The Atlas V was designed at a time when the Soviet Union was crumbling. Using Russian engines was an American ploy to ensure world stability by keeping Russian rocket designers gainfully employed instead of leaving them fend for themselves, building God knows what for the highest bidder.

Did that work? Well, I haven't seen much progess in rocket technology by people crazy enough to start wars.

Has this tactic outlived its usefulness? Yes, in view of recent developments, it's time for a new arrangement. Oh, look, that's just what they're doing.

Re:It's worse than you think (1)

budgenator (254554) | about a month ago | (#47744515)

Well, I haven't seen much progess in rocket technology by people crazy enough to start wars.

North Korea and Iran come to mind.

Re:It's worse than you think (1)

PPH (736903) | about a month ago | (#47741989)

they should be driven into bankruptcy

Won't happen. If it even comes close, Congress and the Pentagon will bail them out by allowing them to buy Boeing. Just like McDonnell Douglas did when they lost the JSF contract.

Re:Fuck Lockheed (1)

im_thatoneguy (819432) | about a month ago | (#47740915)

To be fair, the fact that it's a problem now isn't Lockheed Martin's fault, it's the US government's fault for denying access to the engine.

I say handle it like COTS. Offer a contract for X launches at Y price. If Lockheed wants to continue flying the Atlas they'll find a solution that matches Y price. If another vendor such as SpaceX can delivery Y price then problem solved. If both deliver, all the better.

However it's important to keep in mind that we already have 1 launch vehicle that is capable of fulfilling the air forces missions. This is about having a redundant second option. So unlike COTS where we needed multiple solutions to maintain competition--we currently have one viable solution we just would like to have a second one. So if one or the other is cheaper I would say no need to go with both as soon as it's viable.

Re:Fuck Lockheed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47742065)

There is no penalty because ULA was specifically made as a launch cartel which shares it's profits back to Boeing and LM. The first thing that needs to happen to fix this mess is to have the anti-trust courts split up ULA. The second is to rewrite the federal acquisition laws to either eliminate cost-plus contracts entirely, or limit them to a very small number of extreme circumstances. Rocket engines in particular should be created mostly through private investment and investment by the government should be at fixed amounts, not the blank check we call cost-plus.

Can't we clone them? (1)

shameless (100182) | about a month ago | (#47740341)

I thought that the original deal to use the RD-180 also came with blueprints and specs so that we could build the same engine on our own. Why aren't we pursuing this?

Re:Can't we clone them? (1)

chromaexcursion (2047080) | about a month ago | (#47740507)

because it will take years to actually build one.
because it's rocket science, blue prints are only 1/3 of the way there.

Re:Can't we clone them? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47740693)

...and because USA USA USA is too proud to just be building "cheap knock-offs of a Russian engine".

(They might very well build a very similar one, but it will be designed, tested and built without RD-180 blueprints at a considerable extra expense just so USA USA USA USA #1)

Re:Can't we clone them? (5, Informative)

poodlediagram (1944244) | about a month ago | (#47740707)

That's right: the RD-180 is based on the four chamber RD-170 which began development in the early 1970's.

These Soviet engines rocket were more efficient than their US counterparts. The reason is that they used an oxgen-rich preburner, as opposed to the US engines (including the space shuttle's) which were fuel rich.

Thus there was a flow of superheated oxygen passing through the preburner and then through the turbine to power the turbo pumps. It turned out that no existing steel could withstand this and so the engineers spent years finding a steel alloy which could. The US never did so, and went fuel-rich instead.

To clone this would take a lot of R&D into devloping these steels and learing to machine them. Although in the 1980's so-called 'superalloys' were developed which are not steel (nickel-cobalt for example) and could do the job. These are used in the extreme conditions of modern jet engines and also have to withstand superheated oxygen.

This is just one example of the problems involved in building and testing a cloned engine: it would take many years to get it into production. It's possible this information request is just to shake the Russians up a bit.

Problems with cloning (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47740927)

There are problems with just copying the RD-180.

1) The license for manufacturing the RD-180 expires around 2022.
2) The RD-180 is based on 70s technology. The Air Force would prefer current technology. The Air Force has been working on a low level at developing technology for a staged combustion hydrocarbon engine.
3) Any new engine will require building a new factory, training new employees, and supply chain.

I would argue that the Atlas V is unneeded, and this is an opportunity for it die, but I am not in Congress.

Sure, no problem. (1)

jd (1658) | about a month ago | (#47740633)

It'll cost $(cost of ESA equiv + import license + 10%) for a basic launcher.

For anything more complex or powerful, let me check my Kerbel designs to see what I have.

why not lift sanctions and apologise to Russia? (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47740765)

I'm sure that the Russians will happily continue to supply engines, if US economic terrorism stops.
The reasons for sanctions against Russia are purely American self interest. Counties that behave in the way have ALWAYS, without exception, ended up in a pretty bad shape, if we look back through history.
The American backed coup in Ukraine, has lead to the slaughter of thousands of people - and all for what - most likely because the US wants to replace Russia as Europe's gas supplier.

Re:why not lift sanctions and apologise to Russia? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47741865)

Vladimir? Is that you? Anonymous, maybe, but coward surprises me

The best solution (3, Funny)

Issarlk (1429361) | about a month ago | (#47740939)

Is obviously a cluster of at least five different nozzles, all built in different facillities spread over several representatives' districts.

Too bad for the US really... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47741329)

But but but I was raised thinking Americans do it better than everybody else.
Then as an adult I realised Americans were not better then everybody else in sex and certainly not in engineering.
Too bad jingoistic politics always gets in the way of getting the better option available eh ?

RD-180 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47743273)

The Russians copy our technology all the time. Take the RD-180 apart, copy it, and go on and make a new one here in the USA. Tough luck for the Russians.

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