ULA Completes Final Design Review for New Vulcan Centaur Rocket

Artist’s conception of Vulcan rocket. (Credit: ULA)

CENTENNIAL, Colo., May 20, 2019 (ULA PR) – United Launch Alliance leaders and engineers completed an important milestone with the conclusion of the system Critical Design Review (CDR) for the company’s new Vulcan Centaur rocket. The system-level CDR is the final review of the design for the overall rocket.

“This is a tremendous accomplishment for the ULA team and a significant milestone in the development of a rocket – signaling the completion of the design phase and start of formal qualification,” said Tory Bruno, ULA’s president and CEO. “Vulcan Centaur is purpose built to meet all of the requirements of our nation’s space launch needs and its flight-proven design will transform the future of space launch and advance America’s superiority in space.”

The system CDR was a week-long detailed review of the entire Vulcan Centaur system with the primary focus to verify all of the elements will work properly together as a system. As part of the certification process with the U.S. Air Force, Air Force representatives are included as part of the design review.

“ULA’s Atlas and Delta rockets have served as the backbone for American space launch for decades and our next-generation rocket will advance this rich heritage,” said Bruno. “Vulcan Centaur will provide higher performance and greater affordability while continuing to deliver our unmatched reliability and precision.”

When the first Vulcan Centaur rocket flies in less than two years, a high percentage of the rocket will have flown before on ULA’s Atlas launch vehicle including the fairing, upper stage engines in a dual configuration, avionics, software and solid rocket motors.

“Vulcan Centaur brings together the best of Atlas and Delta technology, and we are flying all of the major components that we can on Atlas V first to reduce the risk for our customers on the first flight,” said Bruno.

ULA and its suppliers have invested in and modernized the factory in Decatur, Alabama, bringing in state-of-the art manufacturing technologies. Flight hardware is already being built for the first flight, and the production is on schedule for the initial launch in 2021.

With more than a century of combined heritage, ULA is the world’s most experienced and reliable launch service provider. ULA has successfully delivered more than 130 satellites to orbit that provide Earth observation capabilities, enable global communications, unlock the mysteries of our solar system, and support life-saving technology.

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/ulalaunch.

  • Pete Zaitcev

    I don’t know about relying on Bezos to deliver anything (well, anything that’s not already in an Amazon’s warehouse), but maybe he can license the production of engines to Aerojet.

  • duheagle

    I suspect Bezos will be able to ship BE-4’s well before ULA can build a rocket to put them on.

  • schmoe

    That would take even longer. Aerojet are the same guys who couldn’t even get the AR-1 engine to the test stand in time for ULA to choose between it and the BE-4 to power Vulcan.

  • DP Huntsman

    As much as I’m rooting for Blue, as well as for SpaceX, let’s keep facts in mind first and foremost: Blue hasn’t built and flown a single orbital-configuration anything; much less two of those anything, much less on a production line. To say, therefore, they will be there before ULA will is, frankly, a bit much, methinks. – Dave Huntsman

  • windbourne

    going to orbit has little to do with manufacturing and delivering an engine.
    However, I am agreeing with Eagle on this one. ULA has shown that the only thing they do well is burn tax payer money.

  • Jeff Smith

    I’m sure AR could’ve gotten something to ULA quite some time ago (a decade? maybe 2?). I think they outsmarted themselves with their strategy of playing hard to get. First hope was that ULA would’ve showed up with the money (either parent companies’ or USG’s), when neither of those happened, they waited for their second hope: direct USG funding. I don’t think they realized just how quickly BO could move when combining Bezos’ money and LOTS of smart people (including LOTS of former AR employees – some of the smartest ones I know went to BO, they were lucky to get those folks). By the time they got that USG money, BO’s lead (and the per unit cost thanks to Bezos’ subsidy) was just too much to overcome.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    With Vulcan we see the future of spaceflight the way the US government envisions it. Bigger apertures, higher masses, no doubt much higher costs.

  • Terry Stetler

    Given the trouble their having with BE-4 , yup. Last I heard they were waiting for another iteration.

    Meanwhile, Raptor is going into intion.

  • Mr Snarky Answer

    Given the number of booked payloads (NG vs Vulcan), the market doesn’t agree with your assessment.

  • duheagle

    Neither ULA nor Blue are setting any speed records getting their next-generation vehicles out the door. Now that both are also taking large quantities of government money, their progress has slowed still further, both firms having added a year to their prospective schedules in the wake of their LSA Phase I wins. So we have a sort of “slow race” going on. Blue has some commercial launch contracts whereas ULA has only the government for a customer so you can see why I think ULA will “win” said “race.”

  • Paul Buff

    As they only got their final design proposal approved this week – I strongly doubt they will have a working Vulcan launched in 2 years time – more like in 4 years at the earliest. As 90% of their launch will be for the Pentagon – there is no need to be efficient…and no matter the price (its all guaranteed via the tax payer). ULA is old school and it will forever remain so. This is their definition of “guaranteed access to space”….

  • duheagle

    I don’t think higher costs will be part of the government vision of future space ops – at least not the military’s vision. Space Force and SDA, in order to fend off critics, will be very much attuned to a hunt for bargains. With SpaceX already the everyday low price leader, and Blue needing to stay in that same ballpark, ULA simply isn’t going to have any of its former pricing latitude.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    Notice how we don’t hear much about Space Force? The administration got the flash in the pan it wanted. Likely Space Force will be filled with civilians and just be re-absorbed into Stratcom/Spacecom and be forgotten about after this administration ends. If I’m right, there will be little change.

    As the world transitions into the second nuclear age nuclear/strategic warfare will probably transition into a ‘incident’ model. A crisis that will last hours to days of actual combat with forces on hand. Civilians will likely want to be in control of the entire process with the combat units being specialized units that are small and almost never heard of. Almost black. They’ll use that black status as a means of covering cost overruns like we see (or don’t see) with the B-21 Raider.

  • publiusr

    The hate many have for SLS–I have for Vulcan.

    I liked Dynetics Pyrios. SRB replacement and big booster all its own.