ULA, Orbital ATK Enter Long-Term Partnership on Atlas V, Vulcan Rockets

CENTENNIAL, Colo. and DULLES, Va., 22 September 2015 (ULA PR)
– Today United Launch Alliance (ULA) and Orbital ATK, Inc. (NYSE: OA) announced a long-term strategic partnership in which Orbital ATK will become the sole provider of solid rocket boosters for ULA’s Atlas V and Vulcan launch vehicles, effective in 2019 when the new motors are ready for launch.

“As ULA transforms the space lift industry, strong partners such as Orbital ATK are critical to reducing cost, introducing cutting-edge innovation and continuing our focus on mission success,” said Tory Bruno, ULA’s president and CEO. “We have relied for decades on Orbital ATK’s industry leading rocket motor technology, which is ideally suited to support our future rocket launch plans.”

Under this partnership, Orbital ATK is investing in the design, development and qualification of two new rocket motors with design similarities to each other that leverage the company’s proven solid motor technology. These motors will significantly lower the price to ULA and to the U.S. government. They will be used to support launches of ULA’s Atlas V and Vulcan vehicles and will also be commercially available to support other customers.

“With this strategic partnership, ULA and Orbital ATK will offer customers better value and reliable access to space,” said David W. Thompson, president and CEO of Orbital ATK. “The capabilities and technology of the newly-merged Orbital ATK enabled us to expand the partnership with ULA to help lower costs and maintain the highest standards of mission assurance.”

Development of the new solid rocket boosters will commence immediately to support their introduction on ULA’s Atlas V vehicle in late 2018 and on ULA’s Vulcan vehicle in mid-2019. Vulcan, ULA’s next generation launch vehicle, is anticipated to transform the future of space launch for the government and commercial market, making it more affordable, accessible and commercially available.

“Our ability to deliver critical national security, scientific and commercial satellites into the correct orbit for each mission is filled with risks and challenges, and ULA has delivered every time,” said Bruno. “This reliability will continue as we develop the right vehicle with the right team.”

The new solid motor booster agreement expands the long-term relationship between ULA and Orbital ATK that already includes the supply of composite structures, nozzles, propellant tanks and booster separation motors for the current versions of Delta IV and Atlas V rockets. In addition, ULA will supply two Atlas rockets to provide launch services for Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft on cargo delivery missions to the International Space Station for NASA in late 2015 and early 2016. Orbital ATK is also developing a fully integrated third stage to launch NASA’s Solar Probe Plus mission on ULA’s Delta IV Heavy rocket in 2018.

ULA has a strong heritage in providing reliable space access for government and commercial entitles under the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program. The EELV program was established by the United States Air Force to provide assured access to space for Department of Defense and other government payloads. The company recently marked the 99th successful one-at-a-time launch since the company was formed in December 2006.

About ULA

With more than a century of combined heritage, United Launch Alliance is the nation’s most experienced and reliable launch service provider. ULA has successfully delivered more than 95 satellites to orbit that provide critical capabilities for troops in the field, aid meteorologists in tracking severe weather, enable personal device-based GPS navigation and unlock the mysteries of our solar system.

For more information on ULA, visit the ULA website at www.ulalaunch.com, or call the ULA Launch Hotline at 1-877-ULA-4321 (852-4321). Join the conversation at www.facebook.com/ulalaunch, twitter.com/ulalaunch and instagram.com/ula.launch.

About Orbital ATK

Orbital ATK is a global leader in aerospace and defense technologies. The company designs, builds and delivers space, defense and aviation systems for customers around the world, both as a prime contractor and merchant supplier. Its main products include launch vehicles and related propulsion systems; missile products, subsystems and defense electronics; precision weapons, armament systems and ammunition; satellites and associated space components and services; and advanced aerospace structures. Headquartered in Dulles, Virginia, Orbital ATK employs more than 12,000 people in 18 states across the U.S. and in several international locations. For more information, visit www.orbitalatk.com or follow the company at twitter.com/orbitalatk and facebook.com/orbitalatk.

  • TimR

    Consolidation and alliances being made. Musk and SpaceX seems to have alienated some in NewSpace and certainly challenges the OldSpace guard. So will SpaceX be able to forge alliances or will they go it alone? Can they?

  • Large solid motors will now come exclusively from Utah. Going from 2 EELVs to 1 Vulcan was bound to mean someone (Aerojet or ATK) got left out in the cold. Since ATK will continue to produce large solids for SLS, Pegasus, Minuteman, GMD (a variation of Pegasus), etc., this makes sense for ULA: they don’t have to support all of the overhead themselves. With ATK doing the SLS work, and getting development dollars from NASA Marshall, Vulcan will be able to piggy back on the new insulation and other processes they are using for SLS to cram even more propellant into those motor cases. I think

  • windbourne

    ?? Uh, spacex has been doing this on own except with small contracts. I believe their goal is to be 100% self sufficient.
    And I have no doubt that spacex wants little to nothing to do with any of these companies, ula or o-atk.

  • TimR

    Nowhere did I imply alliances with ULA or O-ATK. There are others with whom they could form partnerships. They cannot do it alone. They can deliver Falcons as an LV service self-sufficiently but expanding business and revenue for ultimately financing humans to Mars and developing the hardware and infrastructure for the human mission to Mars (especially before 2030) cannot be done without SpaceX forming alliances.

  • windbourne

    They and Bigelow are working together.
    In addition, they are working closely with NASA.
    Finally, I think that they ARE looking at going it alone for most of it.
    Later this year, they are supposed to introduce their MCT. That is supposed to be the Mars Colony Transporter ( i am still trying to figure that one out; I would prefer BA units ).

  • TimR

    Take a look/comment on the schedule of missions I set up for a SpaceX human landing on Mars before 2030. https://disqus.com/home/discussion/spacenewsinc/op_ed_how_we_go_to_mars/#comment-2268212530

    They might build an MCT and use it to transport a first expedition before 2030 but they still need a progression of missions, as I outlined, to Mars to culminate in a human mission in the 2029 launch window. And on that first mission, the MCT won’t be taking 100, not 50 but rather 7 that can fit in a Dragon lander. Time until 2029 and the cost cannot support the logistics for more than 7. That’s my take on it.

  • Galt2100

    Small contracts? $3.7B is small?

    Elon could have never developed anything beyond his first Falcon 9 design, and no Dragon, without his “wink wink, nod nod” political connection contracts from NASA.

    Now SpaceX is just another bloated (4200 people) NASA and defense contractor, pretending to be “NewSpace”.

  • Galt2100

    Maybe another “X Prize” will speed things up. Yeah, that’s the ticket…

  • Dennis

    There is a nice big FU to Aerojet’s $2B offer on ULA 😛

  • windbourne

    You object to SpaceX providing services?
    I assume that you are objecting to their providing launch services for the gov at a fraction of the price that the feds would normally pay?
    If so, then, you have a big issue with your login.

    And bloated defense contractor? Not even close. 4200 is small. VERY small.

  • Vladislaw

    Dragon lander? I thought the MCT was the lander?

  • TimR

    As far as I know MCT is a transporter only, going from Earth orbit to Mars orbit and back. They will need the “Red” Dragon 2 for making the Martian touchdowns at MS1. I suspect the Dragon won’t be the ascent vehicle. They could develop a far simpler lightweight ascent vehicle because of the low atmospheric density on Mars (equivalent to ~200,000 feet on Earth). Shotwell said that they spend time at every meeting talking about Mars. I hope these are the things being designed now rather than talk about what their favorite mixed drink will be on Mars.

  • Zed_WEASEL

    You are mistaken. The MCT is a upper stage, Mars transfer vehicle, Mars lander, Mars surface habitat, Mars ISRU facility, Earth return vehicle and Earth atmospheric reentry vehicle all roll into one. Otherwise you will have to develop a vehicle for each of those roles in parallel.

    The Dragon in the Red Dragon guise is not capable of ascend from Martian surface due to lack of Delta-V and non-availability of the hypergolic propellants on Mars.

    Unless you are proposing sending people up in a enclosed lift platform with EVA rated spacesuits and minimum attitude control. Otherwise there is no simple or light weight Mars ascend vehicle. Besides how you get a flight capable Mars ascend vehicle on the Mars surface in the first place, since it will nor fitted in a Red Dragon or any current Martian EDL (entry, descend & landing) system.

  • TimR

    Most discussion has revolved around using methane and oxygen produce on Mars. Hypergolics won’t be needed to such a great extent. MCT is more likely to be a Earth-Mars transfer vehicle with LVs transferring personnel from Earth surface to MCT and from MCT to Mars, visa-verse. What you describe sounds more like the Thunderbird 2. The MCT you described works perfectly well as part of a Supermarionation series running from 1964 to 1966. If they choose to make MCT a Doall device, the mission to Mars won’t be in the 2030s. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/0af59656cd1d8eaf2e92151fda36d1b670e4786073925f5fe767d32c98664005.jpg

  • Zed_WEASEL

    Hypergolic propellants is in reference to the Dragon or the Red Dragon. Since their engines (Dracos & Super Dracos) runs on Hypergolic stuff.

    The consensus in the NSF forum is the do it all role for the MCT is much more likely.

    In any case. Wrong Thunderbird vehicle in comparison. The MCT is more like Thunderbird 3. Which however doesn’t do hover-slam landings like SpaceX.

  • Galt2100

    I object to SpaceX sucking on the same U.S. Government teat as all the other defense contractors, while pretending to be a brave, privately-funded, commercial start up. So no problem with my login.

    And 4200 is small only in liberal self-deluded la-la land. United Launch Alliance (ULA), which builds both the Atlas and Delta launch vehicle families, has substantially fewer employees (3600 according to Wikipedia).

    As to “providing launch services for the gov at a fraction of the price that the feds would normally pay”, you really should try to learn something about the facts of the real world, instead of just spouting sycophantic propaganda. By the time SpaceX adds in all their “extra cost” services (“you want tires with that car?”), their prices are higher than other launch service providers; just divide the COTS money NASA paid for “services” (not development) for Space Station supply missions by the number of flights they received.