Georgia Tech Wins USAF Engine Design Contract

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. Air Force awarded Georgia Tech Research Institute of Atlanta a sole-source, $7.8 million contract for work toward a new American-made rocket engine, according to a May 4 press release from the service.

Congress mandated last year that the U.S. Defense Department develop a main rocket engine by 2019 to replace the Russian-made RD-180 that powers United Launch Alliance’s workhorse Atlas 5 rocket, which launches most U.S. military payloads.

Under the contract, the Georgia Tech Research Institute, a part of the Georgia Institute of Technology, will develop combustion stability modeling and design tools, the release said. Specifically, the money will be used to “combat the toughest challenges associated with large-scale Oxygen Rich Stage Combustion engines,” Maj. Eric Simon, an Air Force spokesman, said in an April 30 email to SpaceNews.

The work is expected to be completed by April 27, 2017.

The Air Force disbursed about $3.9 million of the contract funding to the institute at the time of the award. The money was drawn from the roughly $57 million the Air Force says it has spent to date on a new rocket engine.