We’re already buying these, aren’t we?

Boeing Tests Future Rocket Engine Component to Record Levels

SpaceDaily notes that testing on Boeing’s new RS-84 rocket engine are progessing smoothly. It’s a reusable LOX/Kerosene burner that will generate about one million pounds of thrust.
Using kerosene instead of hydrogen gets more bang per pound of fuel.

(Quick! What’s heavier? A pound of liquid hydrogen or a pound of liquid kerosene? Answer in comments.)

The rocket engine is being developed by the Rocketdyne Propulsion & Power Division of Boeing for NASA’s Next Generation Launch Technology Program.

In the recent successful test, a subscale preburner, which produces high-pressure, oxidizer-rich combustion gases to spin the engine’s oxidizer and fuel turbopumps, achieved a chamber pressure in excess of 6800 pounds per square inch, well beyond the levels seen in current domestic oxygen/kerosene rocket engines.

There’s a clue in there, folks. It’s the word between “well beyond the levels seen in current” and “oxygen/kerosene rocket engines.”

The clue word there is “domestic.”

MO noted back in September that LockheedMartin is licensing manufacturing rights from the Russians for the RD-180 LOX/Kerosene rocket motor that generates about one million pounds of thrust.

The RD-180 isn’t reusable, and I don’t know enough of the details (not being a rocket scientist) but it seems to me that we’re duplicating here. The SpaceDaily story mentions that two firms are competing to build this motor. That seems a little silly when we’ve already got it.

Do I like using Russian rocket motors? Not particularly, but we shouldn’t be reinventing the wheel, either. Why not spend that developmental money on figuring out how to make the RD-180 reusable?

At some point, if we’re not doing it already, taxpayers are going to pay Boeing about 17 bazillion dollars for their new motor, which I fully expect to be far more complex, expensive, and unreliable than the Russian motor.

Maybe this isn’t nearly as cut-and-dried as it appears to a layman like myself, but on the surface it doesn’t look terribly smart.