August 14, 2019 – At the United Launch Alliance (ULA) factory in Decatur, Alabama, production of the first Vulcan Centaur rocket continues, with shipment to the launch site at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida scheduled for late next year for processing in preparation for its first launch in 2021.
“Atlas and Delta rockets have been the backbone of national security space launch for decades, building on a progressive history of technology development and advancement — Vulcan Centaur will advance this rich heritage,” said Tory Bruno, ULA’s president and CEO. “Following the successful launch of our 134th mission just last week on our Atlas rocket, we submitted our purpose-built Vulcan Centaur rocket for the U.S. Air Force’s Phase 2 Launch Services competition. It is so exciting to see the first flight vehicle coming together at our factory.”
The Department of Defense has established a selection strategy to ensure a smooth transition to a U.S. engine, while introducing competition, driving down costs and safeguarding continued assured access to space by preventing any capability gaps. Nearly one year ago, the Air Force held a competition and awarded three Launch Services Agreements for public-private partnerships to develop launch vehicles. Phase 2 is the next procurement in the Air Force’s strategy.
“The nation is facing a contested space environment, and we are unleashing the energy of American ingenuity by developing Vulcan Centaur to meet our nation’s need for expanding space missions,” said Bruno. “Vulcan Centaur’s flight proven design, coupled with innovative technology, is transforming the future of space launch and will advance America’s superiority in space.”
ULA is the nation’s only full-range national security space launch provider and is the most experienced, with more than 130 launches and 100 percent mission success. Additionally, ULA and the heritage companies are the nation’s only firms who have ever flown the exquisite Category C heavy-class national security missions, thus providing the country with extreme confidence of continued low-risk mission performance.
“Vulcan Centaur will provide higher performance and greater affordability while continuing to deliver our unmatched reliability and orbital accuracy precision from our treasured cryogenic Centaur upper stage,” said Bruno. “ULA is the best partner for national security space launch, and we are the only provider to demonstrate experience flying to all orbits including the most challenging heavy-class missions, providing the bedrock foundation for the lowest risk portfolio of two launch service providers for the U.S. Air Force.”
In the factory, the fabrication of the structure for the first Vulcan Centaur rocket continues, and the team recently completed the booster structural test article in Decatur. In Florida, assembly of the new Mobile Launch Platform has begun in preparation for the first launch.