SpaceX has received an additional $40.7 million from the U.S. Air Force to continue developing the company’s Raptor engine. The additional funding modifies an agreement SpaceX agreed upon in January 2016 that originally awarded the company $33.6 million.
Although no additional information on why additional funding was made available, it was revealed that the work will be carried out. NASA’s Stennis Center, which SpaceX utilised for testing the Raptor engine, the company’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California and Los Angeles Air Force Base will host most of the Raptor engine’s development.
The original agreement, which has now been expanded upon was one of many “cost-sharing awards” referred to as Other Transaction Agreements (OTAs) by the Air Force. Similar agreements have been awarded to Aerojet Rocketdyne, Orbital ATK, and ULA in an attempt to reduce the US’s reliance on the Russian-made RD-180 engine.
This latest agreement modification comes after a similar one added $16.9 million to fund the Raptor engine in June 2017. The result is that the total value of SpaceX’s OTA currently stands at $95 million.
Although not awarded an OTA or any other governmental funding, the frontrunner to replace the RD-180 engine appears to be Blue Origin. After initial setbacks, Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin successfully completed a hot fire test of their massive BE-4 engine earlier this month. United Launch Alliance is set to make their decision on which engine will replace the RD-180 in powering the Atlas 5 and the BE-4 seems the obvious choice.
In addition to potentially serving as a replacement for the RD-180, SpaceX’ Raptor engine will also power the company’s BFR launch system. Announced earlier this month, the BFR envisions a gigantic reusable launch system that will be used for a variety of missions from moon expeditions, to Mars missions and even disrupting commercial air travel. The innovative launch system will utilise a staggering 31 Raptor engines and will be capable of launching 150 metric tons into low Earth orbit.
Image Credit: SpaceX