ULA "Stakes Future" On Revolutionary Vulcan Rocket Written 20 March 2018

CBS News reports that United Launch Alliance (ULA) is responding to the “threat posed” by SpaceX with “long-range plans to phase out its workhorse Atlas 5 rocket and costly Delta 4 rockets in favor of a powerful, less-expensive launcher known as the Vulcan.” The Vulcan will include reusable engines and an “advanced, long-lived upper stage,” and ULA executives expect the Vulcan to be a “major contender in the increasingly fierce slugfest between SpaceX, ULA and other international launch providers.” This competition was “center stage” with last Wednesday’s award of $642 million in US Air Force Launch contracts to SpaceX and ULA. Although SpaceX designs call for recovery of the entire first stage rocket, ULA will recover only the engines, and ULA President and CEO Tory Bruno “said the Vulcan’s engines represent two-thirds of the cost of the stage.” During a roundtable discussion, Bruno asked, “is it better to recover 100 percent of the value of the booster some of the time or only two thirds of the value of the booster all of the time?” Bruno concluded, “We’ve each made market forecasts, and if we’re right, our solution will be economically advantageous. If I’m wrong and they’re right, then theirs will.” ULA plans its initial Vulcan flights for mid-2020, and also plans to “introduce its new upper stage in 2024, the Advanced Cryogenic Evolved Stage, or ACES, that Bruno says will revolutionize spaceflight.” Bruno described ACES’s innovation “on the scale of inventing the plane,” adding that he is “confident it’s going to create a large economy in space that doesn’t exist today.”
More Info (CBS News)