ULA Selects Blue Origin Advanced Booster Engine for Vulcan Centaur Rocket System
ULA president/CEO credits strategic industry partnerships and innovations with helping advance “rocket of the future” designed to transform next-generation space launch.
Engineers at United Launch Alliance (ULA), provider of spacecraft launch services to the US government, in Centennial, Colo., have selected the BE-4 engine from Blue Origin LLC in Kent, Wash., to help power the company’s next-generation Vulcan Centaur rocket system. The new Vulcan Centaur rocket design will incorporate: a pair of Blue Origin BE-4 engines in the booster stage, Aerojet Rocketdyne’s RL10 engine for the upper stage, Northrop Grumman solid rocket boosters, L-3 Avionics Systems avionics and electronics, and RUAG’s payload fairings and composite structures.
Vulcan Centaur’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) fueled booster will be powered by two BE-4 engines, each capable of producing 550,000 pounds of sea level thrust. Vulcan Centaur will have a maximum liftoff thrust of 3.8 million pounds and carry 56,000 pounds to low Earth orbit, 33,000 pounds to a geo-transfer orbit, and 16,000 pounds to geostationary orbit – and do so with greater capability than any available single-core launch vehicle, officials say.
“We are well on our way to the introduction of Vulcan Centaur – the future of U.S. rocket manufacturing,” ULA President and CEO Tory Bruno says. “With state-of-the-art engineering and manufacturing techniques, this rocket is designed specifically for low recurring cost.
“Strong partners are critical to the cutting-edge innovation that is leading us into the next generation in space and ensuring mission success,” Bruno continues. “Partnerships with Blue Origin, Aerojet Rocketdyne, Northrop Grumman, L-3 Avionics Systems and RUAG will allow the Vulcan Centaur to transform the future of space launch for the government and commercial markets, making launch more affordable, accessible and commercially available.”
Engineers at ULA, a joint venture between Lockheed Martin Space Systems and Boeing Defense, Space & Security, are currently developing the Vulcan Centaur space launch system, which is on track for its initial flight in mid-2020. The booster preliminary design and critical design reviews have been completed. The new rocket design leverages elements of the Delta IV and Atlas V launch vehicle designs while introducing advanced technologies and innovative features, officials say.
“We have been working closely with the U.S. Air Force, and our certification plan is in place,” Bruno adds. “Vulcan Centaur will revolutionize spaceflight and provide affordable, reliable access to space for our current and future customers. Our new rocket will be superior in reliability, cost and capability – one system for all missions.”
“United Launch Alliance is the premier launch service provider for national security missions, and we’re thrilled to be part of their team and that mission,” says Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith. “We can’t thank Tory Bruno and the entire United Launch Alliance team enough for entrusting our engine to powering the Vulcan rocket’s first stage.”
Vulcan Centaur will bolster U.S. manufacturing by adding to the more than 22,000 direct and indirect American jobs in 46 states supported by ULA programs.
“ULA has chosen the best systems available to create the Vulcan Centaur,” Bruno says. “We are pleased to enter into this partnership with Blue Origin and look forward to a successful first flight of our next-generation launch vehicle.”
Vulcan Centaur is ULA's next-generation, American rocket system, designed to ents, the Vulcan Centaur will surpass current rocket capabilities and launch services at significantly lower costs, while still meeting the requirements of ULA’s cooperative research and development agreement with the U.S. Air Force to certify the Vulcan Centaur for national security space missions.
Blue Origin is an American privately funded aerospace manufacturer and spaceflight services company headquartered in Kent, Washington. Founded in 2000 by Jeff Bezos, the company is developing technologies to enable private human access to space with the goal to dramatically lower costs and increase reliability
Launch service provider ULA has delivered 130 satellites to orbit that provide Earth observation capabilities, enable global communications, unlock the mysteries of our solar system, and support life-saving technology.