July 24, 2024

Solid State Lighting Design

Find latest world news and headlines today based on politics, crime, entertainment, sports, lifestyle, technology and many more

ULA needs to launch a Vulcan II rocket

ULA needs to launch a Vulcan II rocket

A great example of this this week is United Launch Alliance’s Cert-2 mission.

If you’re in the space world, hearing CEO Torey Bruno announce that ULA will bite the bullet and fly Cert-2 without a customer payload is a wild announcement. After all, aren’t rockets expensive? Don’t rockets often wait months or even years for a spacecraft to be ready for launch? Why are you sending? An empty $100 million Vulcan rocket in orbit with no one paying for it, especially since ULA has sold over 70 launches to customers?

The simple answer is that Cert-2 has a client: the Pentagon. But let’s unpack that.

The tasks of national security are: The most profitable launch contractsThis program generates billions of dollars annually from missile orders. Some of these missiles are low-cost experimental missions, but most are expensive, top-secret satellites that the Pentagon doesn’t want to let just anyone launch. Here comes the role of the national security space rocket launch program.

Both ULA and SpaceX already participate in the NSSL program, but every time they bring a new rocket to market, the Space Force requires it. The missile was successfully launched before being certified for the NSSL mission. Hence the name of the second Vulcan mission, Cert-2. It was first launched in January.Which was the first step towards obtaining the certificate.

“What the Space Force looks forward to seeing with Cert-2 is another successful flight just like Cert-1,” Bruno said during a news conference Wednesday.

After Cert-2, ULA will send the Space Force “gigabytes of data for all the hardware on every part of the rocket,” Bruno said, and assuming they “don’t find any surprises,” it will be possible for Vulcan to begin launching NSSL missions.

See also  Lunar Eclipse: Look to the skies for 3 space events this weekend

ULA had planned to launch Sierra Space’s Dream Chaser cargo plane aboard Cert-2, but Bruno said the latter company’s CEO Tom Weiss “felt it was a risk of a very large timeline against my needs.” Dream Chaser will be sidelined, replaced by an “inert payload,” also known as a “mass simulator” (imagine a big block of concrete and metal), so Cert-2 can launch by September.

Why the rush?

Well, the Pentagon has already purchased a full complement of Vulcan launches, and expects to fly two of those missions — USSF-106 and USSF-87 — before the end of the year. Already, Air Force top brass Frank Calvelli has been lobbying Bruno and the ULA. Message sent last month To the rocket company’s owners, Boeing and Lockheed Martin, they expressed concern “due to Vulcan delays.” As announced by the Air Force Imposing a fine on ULAFor an undisclosed amount due to Vulcan delays.

One question mark that had hung over the next three Vulcan missions has been largely settled at least: Blue Origin’s ability to deliver the BE-4 engines for the rockets. The company has delivered to ULA the six engines needed for the three launches, and Bruno noted that he has “much more confidence” in that relationship. That wasn’t the case a year ago, Bruno said, noting that his company had “a lot of concerns” about securing the engines ULA needed. That was when Blue Origin had BE-4 engine explosion during acceptance testing – Engine that was intended for the launch of Cert-2.

Timely delivery of the BE-4 engines becomes even more important next year, as Bruno expects ULA to conduct 20 launches in 2025, half on Atlas V rockets and the other half on Vulcan rockets. The company has a total of 16 Atlas V rockets remaining for launch, before they are fully launched on Vulcan.

See also  Hubble detects a massive comet that will swing by the sun in 2031

The Pentagon is ULA’s most important customer. So while the military may not pay for Cert-2 directly, the backlog of NSSL orders is why ULA is willing to pay out of its own pocket to get the job started.

Oh, and there’s another open question about The long-rumored ULA saleI thought, as did others, that Vulcan’s successful debut earlier this year would seal the deal. In addition, Jeff Bezos Inc Collection of stock sales Earlier this year, Blue Origin seemed like the likely winner. I’m speculating, but anyone who wants to buy ULA might wait until after Cert-2 — or perhaps the more friendly FTC if there’s a change in the White House in November.