United Launch Alliance progresses manufacture of Vulcan Centaur

Updates on the progress of the new launch vehicle, scheduled for launch in 2021, were announced at the 35th Space Symposium.
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United Launch Alliance (ULA, Centennial, Colo., U.S.) reports continued progress of the manufacture of its Vulcan Centaur launch vehicle, scheduled for launch in 2021. Qualification has been ongoing for nearly a year, and the first flight hardware began manufacture within the past few weeks, CEO Tony Bruno said in a media event on April 8 at the 35th Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colo., U.S.

Key ULA suppliers for the project include Aerojet Rocketdyne, Blue Origin, Dynetics, L3 Technologies, Northrop Grumman and RUAG. At the media event, representatives from these companies discussed their timeline, components, state-of-the-art technology and manufacturing techniques as they move forward building and testing hardware in advance of the Vulcan Centaur’s first flight in 2021.

The new vehicle is intended to build on the heritage and technology of ULA’s Atlas and Delta rockets and will be used for national security space missions, the company says. “When designing Vulcan Centaur, we took the best of Atlas and Delta and carried that over to our new rocket,” said Bruno at the event. “In addition, many of Vulcan Centaur’s major components will be flown first on Atlas V missions such as the solid rocket boosters, avionics, software, upper-stage engine and payload fairings, lowering the risk of the first flight.”

“The strong team behind the Vulcan Centaur, including ULA’s supplier base, is proud to be building a rocket to launch critical American defense assets. Vulcan Centaur will provide higher performance and greater affordability while also continuing to deliver our unmatched reliability and precision,” said Bruno.

ULA is the U.S.’s only full-range launch provider and is investing in and modernizing the factory in Decatur, Ala., and upgrading launch facilities to be more capable and flexible. ULA has successfully delivered 133 satellites to orbit.

“As the nation faces growing threats in the space environment, ULA is unleashing the energy of American ingenuity by developing the Vulcan Centaur,” said Bruno. “Purpose-built to meet our nation’s needs for expanding space missions, the Vulcan Centaur’s innovative technology is transforming the future of launch and will advance America’s superiority in space.”