Maybe Next Time, ULA Should Try FedEx

ULA PR — United Launch Alliance (ULA) completed Friday the first combined Atlas and Delta rocket shipment from its factory in Decatur, Ala., to the launch site at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., on the specially-designed ship called the Delta Mariner.

“ULA is focused on providing the best value to our customers. Utilizing the Mariner to ship both Atlas and Delta launch vehicles simultaneously offers up to $800,000 cost savings per trip and long-term cost savings for our customers,” said Mark Wilkins, vice president of Program Operations.

“ULA’s formation continues to garner a substantial return on investment and exceeds ULA’s consolidation savings commitment to the United States government.”

The Mariner was originally designed to carry Delta IV hardware from the production plant in Alabama to the launch sites, while the Atlas hardware was delivered from its production facility in Denver, Colo., to the launch sites by aircraft.

In 2009, when the Atlas V production line was consolidated in the Decatur Ala., factory, ULA began evaluating common transportation options for both vehicles and the potential cost savings.

When the Mariner arrived at the Cape, two boosters, two second stages, as well as a Delta IV Payload Attach Fitting and fairing were off-loaded at the wharf, located at Port Canaveral.

The 312-foot roll-on, roll-off vessel can travel on both rivers and open seas and navigate in waters as shallow as nine feet. The trip to the Cape is more than 2,100 miles and takes 8-10 days. The Mariner can carry up to three common booster cores, which are as long as a 737 airline fuselage each.

The Mariner is carrying the Atlas V launch vehicle that will launch the Mars Science Lab mission for NASA in November and the Delta IV launch vehicle scheduled to launch the Wideband Global Satcom (WGS)-4 mission for the U.S. Air Force.

Since its formation in December 2006, ULA has delivered greater than the two to one savings on investment originally required and has successfully launched 52 times.

ULA program management, engineering, test and mission support functions are headquartered in Denver, Colo. Manufacturing, assembly and integration operations are located at Decatur, Ala., Harlingen, Texas, San Diego, Calif. Launch operations are located at Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla., and Vandenberg AFB, Calif.