Good Russian Businessmen

I’ve said for years that no one, including the Russians, knows how much their space activities and hardware costs, because of the nature of their economy, in which proper cost accounting never existed under the Soviets. Presumably they have had time to fix this problem, but they don’t seem to have done so:

Russian engineering corporation Energomash sold rocket engines to the United States at half production cost, losing $32 million as a result, the Russian Comptroller’s Office said on Wednesday.

It did not say how many RD-180 engines were sold, only saying the loss was sustained in 2008-09, constituting 68 percent of the firm’s total losses.

This is going to be a headache for United Launch Alliance, which is going to have to purchase more engines in the future for the Atlas, and the price is likely now going to more than double, which means yet another increase in their costs. I think that Aerojet is actually licensed to manufacture the engines here, but they’ve never done so because it would cost much more than it has been to purchase from Energomash. This may change that calculation, but I’m not sure that it’s going to make sense even at the higher purchase price. It may still be cheaper to buy Russian. Of course, there could be a point at which the Pentagon makes a decision to subsidize the price, just for reasons of national security, to reduce our dependence on a nation that does not have our best interests at heart. If only we could get Congress to be sensible about Commercial Crew, so we can end our dependence on the Soyuz as soon as possible.

The Wichita Lineman

Who does the best cover?

Jimmy Webb was a great songwriter, but no one could ever do it better than Glenn Campbell. Though the James Taylor version is listenable.

What is really sad, is how unappreciated a guitar picker he was. Though you wouldn’t know it from the Wichita Lineman video.

And yes, the lyrics, can’t be beat: “And I need you more than want you…and I want you for all time…”

[Update a couple minutes later]

The genius of the Campbell arrangement was the morse code background in the chorus of the radio hit, though you won’t hear it in the linked video above. It’s sad and frightening how many memories listening to that song brings back. Reading the comments of people much younger at the video of the ’68 hit is even more poignant.

Biting Commentary about Infinity…and Beyond!