CEV LOX/Methane Update: Is It In - Or Is It Out?

Editor's note: See update below.

NASA GRC Award: Cryogenic Oxygen/Methane Reaction Control System (RCS) Engine Assembly (Northrop Grumman)
NASA GRC Award: Cryogenic Oxygen/Methane Reaction Control System (RCS) Engine Assembly (Aerojet)

Editor's note: I'm confused. Just last week, on 6 February 2006, ESMD AA Scott Horowitz was at the FY 2007 budget press conference. At that event he talked about the decision to move away from LOX/Methane systems for the CEV (see transcript below). Now GRC awards $14 million of work on the same type of system for the CEV - one award to Aerojet for $6,270,479 and another to Northrop Grumman for $7,802,351. That's a lot of money to study something that has been "deferred" (as are all those space science missions).

"HOROWITZ: The question is about the use of LOX/methane on the CEV. As you know, we started in different design cycles. We've got an architecture define based on the ESAS results, and the recommendation out of there was LOX/methane for the CEV."

"As we went through the next design, announced the cycle, and there'll be several design analysis cycles as we go through this program, it's a very big complicated program, what we realized, without getting into all the technical difficulties, is that some a the benefits in the near term for LOX/methane, especially when we looked at the ascent module coming from the moon, back off the moon, that the gain was probably not worth the investment at this time.

LOX/methane is still part of our research development program and we're still very interested in it because it is most likely the key to getting on to Mars, which of course we're interested in the long term.

It's just in the short term we looked at all of our propulsion needs and the ability to do a cost-effective run-out of our launch vehicles to support the lunar and then eventually the Mars programs and so in that cost and benefit trade, and technical trades, we came upon some trades that said we were gonna delay LOX/methane on the CEV until a later time."

- NASA GRC Notices Regarding Status of Procurement NNC06ZPT004R: Cryogenic Oxygen/Methane RCS Engine Assembly (earlier post)

- CEV Work: Is GRC Up To The Task?

Editor's update: I just got this from NASA PAO in response to an inquiry earlier today:

"To reduce schedule risk, NASA has altered the CEV acquisition by making LOX/methane propulsion an option on the current solicitation and providing industry an opportunity to propose alternate approaches. Because it is key to NASA's long term strategy for Mars, technology investments such as those announced by Glenn Research Center will continue in the areas of cryogenic fuel management, LOX/methane propulsion, and other "green" hydrocarbon fuels. The goal is to introduce non-hypergole solutions into Constellation once the technology is mature."

Editor's note: In other words NASA says that it is not required that the propulsion systems proposed for the CEV use LOX/Methane - yet they are paying CEV bidder and a potential subcontractor to work on these systems albeit at reduced levels - none the less.

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on February 15, 2006 9:38 AM.

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