ULA Reduces Energy Consumption, Cuts Costs At Decatur Rocket Factory

November 12, 2015 – Thanks to motor-speed regulating machines sourced from another company’s facility, Alabama-Decatur Energy announced a recent energy efficiency upgrade at its plant that supplies thermal utilities to customer United Launch Alliance (ULA). This upgrade will significantly drive down ULA’s energy use and reduce costs at their Decatur rocket factory.

Alabama-Decatur Energy, which is a part of GDF SUEZ Energy North America, supplies utilities to space launch services provider ULA via steam, chilled water and compressed air to heat and cool the complex, regulate rocket manufacturing chemical processes and operate pneumatic tools.

In collaboration with ULA, Alabama-Decatur installed two ABB 1,500-horsepower variable frequency drives to regulate the speed of the motors on two of the plant’s 1,425-ton chillers. Prior to installation of the variable frequency drives, the chillers’ motors ran on full power 24 hours a day to power ULA’s 1.6 million-square-foot facility that manufacturers Atlas V and Delta IV launch vehicles.

When Alabama-Decatur Energy Plant Manager Kevin Miller learned from a colleague that the equipment was available for reuse from another plant in the fleet that had been decommissioned, he realized the machines could reduce the operating costs at ULA.

“The collaboration between ULA and Alabama-Decatur Energy is a testament to ULA’s commitment to innovation through increased focus on sustainability and energy efficiency. The team at Alabama-Decatur Energy worked to decrease our energy consumption in our Decatur factory,” said Craig Langford, director and general manager of program operations.

With an eye toward conserving energy and cost reduction, Alabama-Decatur Energy and ULA’s power and facilities professionals teamed up to examine, craft and implement the upgrade.

“I knew this would help us be more competitive in helping ULA become more energy efficient as well as drive ULA’s energy costs down,” Miller pointed out. “I see this project as part of our long-term customer focus. We think of it as an industrial-scale example of Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.”

ULA program management, engineering, test, and mission support functions are headquartered in Denver, Colorado. Manufacturing, assembly and integration operations are located in Decatur, Alabama, and Harlingen, Texas.

Over more than 50 years, Atlas and Delta have launched approximately 1,300 missions. Launch customers include the Department of Defense, NASA, the National Reconnaissance Office, the U.S. Air Force and other organizations.