United Launch Alliance Selects Aerojet Rocketdyne’s RL10 Engine for Next-generation Vulcan Centaur Upper Stage

Commerical Crew Program (CCP) astronauts visit Aerojet Rocketdyne to see engine test. (Credit: NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis)

CENTENNIAL, Colo., May 11, 2018 (ULA PR) – United Launch Alliance (ULA) today announced Aerojet Rocketdyne as a strategic partner for the RL10 upper stage engine for ULA’s next-generation Vulcan Centaur rocket following a competitive procurement process.

“ULA and Aerojet Rocketdyne have a long and successful history together that began with the first flight of our Atlas and Delta rockets in the 1960s,” said Tory Bruno, ULA president and CEO. “We could not be more pleased to have selected the proven and reliable RL10 to power our Vulcan Centaur upper stage.”

This partnership is a long-term agreement for Aerojet Rocketdyne to provide upper stage propulsion for the next decade. As part of this partnership, Aerojet Rocketdyne will provide RL10s and develop the RL10C-X, the next generation of the RL10 family. The RL10C-X will increase the use of additive manufacturing and introduce other advanced technologies to improve the quality, reliability, affordability and performance.

“Key determining factors to our selection included price and delivery schedule,” said Bruno. “We look forward to continuing our strong partnership to ensure a successful introduction of Vulcan Centaur.”

Over the course of nearly 60 years, more than 450 RL10 engines have flown on various ULA heritage vehicles with an unmatched record of mission success.

ULA continues its competitive procurement process for the booster engine and plans to make a down select soon.

With more than a century of combined heritage, United Launch Alliance is the nation’s most experienced and reliable launch service provider. ULA has successfully delivered more than 125 satellites to orbit that provide critical capabilities for troops in the field, aid meteorologists in tracking severe weather, enable personal device-based GPS navigation and unlock the mysteries of our solar system.

For more information on ULA, visit the ULA website at www.ulalaunch.com, or call the ULA Launch Hotline at 1-877-ULA-4321 (852-4321). Join the conversation at www.facebook.com/ulalaunch, twitter.com/ulalaunch and instagram.com/ulalaunch.

  • Michael Halpern

    Metholox is almost as efficient as hydrolox tens of seconds difference iirc

  • passinglurker

    Then ydrc because I wouldn’t call 75-100m/s of difference “tens”. Perhaps you were comparing a closed cycle methane engine in vacuum to an open cycle hydrogen engine at sea level but in reality truly comparable engines will hold to this gap.

  • passinglurker

    Ok we can’t fly bfr it’ll stay on orbit to long and explode there is nothing to be done/s

  • passinglurker

    Dude you need to cut it out with the double posting if you got something new to say either save it or edit it.

    Anyway you can’t make a reusable upper stage with ion engines. also radiation belts

  • Michael Halpern

    We can’t keep it in orbit for years,

  • passinglurker

    You heard it here first folks bfr can’t go to mars it’ll explode at some point cause the trip is to long./s

  • Henry Vanderbilt

    More like ~100S Isp or ~1000 m/s vac exhaust velocity edge for hydrogen over methane. Vexh = Isp * G, max CH4 vac Isp approaches 370 seconds, LH2 approaches 470 seconds.

    Horses for courses – each fuel has its difficulties, and its place. Neither is somehow magically superior in all circumstances. And I note that once you’re off Earth, what you can most easily get locally wins. We know there’s water on the Moon, we know there’s CO2 on Mars.

  • Michael Halpern

    Then don’t cross the van allen belts after deployment, you don’t need to anyways, unless you are bringing something back to Earth from space, in which case you need something like bfs anyways. Give me one good reason why you would need a tug to be able to travel across the radiation belts. Unless you are using it as a propulsion system for an on orbit assembled manned spacecraft that needs to cross them, there is no reason why you would release a payload in LEO that needs to go to GEO, or vise versa, so not being able to cross the van allen belts with sep is not an issue, because you would never need to

  • passinglurker

    Its not an upper stage at that point it can’t complete launch to orbit with ion engines meaning you need a separate stage meaning you are throwing the stage away. Efficiency in space is making things pull double/tripple/quadruple duty which is where the ACES architecture comes in. Also ion tugs are too slow for manned missions.

  • Michael Halpern

    No your not throwing it away, you can either pick it up later, have hosted payloads on it or put it back into a transfer orbit so it can cross between the radiation belts by not staying in them for long, you could even have it pick up a piece of junk and do a bunch of apopsis and periapsis burns to deorbit it a space tug is just a spacecraft power, propulsion and navigation system that can push spacecraft it isn’t a part of, doesn’t mean it can ONLY be used to push other spacecraft, after its primary mission is done you still have a perfectly good spacecraft buss, use it as any other satellite if you want.

  • passinglurker

    See that makes sense for a chemically propelled stage like ACES not a primarily SEP “stage”. SEP will always need something between booster and orbit the question is what to do with that something after orbital insertion.

  • Michael Halpern

    You wouldn’t have your tug as a stage it will be a payload, if you need the thrust of chemical engines on your tug you make it capable of surviving re-entry for reuse, as you are not likely to go back to the same orbit frequently or you wouldn’t need it in the first place, if you can do with just SEP your tug is basically a satellite with an oversized propulsion system that pushes other satellites before finding a preferred orbit for itself

  • passinglurker

    It’s funny that complain about the mass ratio of hydrolox yet you suggest second stage reentry.

  • Michael Halpern

    Of course, because that payload penalty doesn’t matter because you are saving money, the poor mass ratio of hydrolox makes things expensive i couldn’t care less about mass ratios and fuel efficiency in rockets on their own, however how they factor into launch costs is what really matters

    when you consider how expensive (delta v) inclination changes are, ACES has only one real use, and thats making it so they don’t need a Vulcan Heavy, because ACES isn’t really reusable, it can’t make significant inclination changes to meet up with another aces on a whim, its refuelable, and besides which in order to refuel it you have to send another one up

    At the end of the day there is only one number that matters and it’s why ACES doesn’t make a lot of sense, and that’s the price tag, your customer doesn’t care how efficient you are, they care if you can get their payload where it needs to go, and how much it costs. That was the point i was trying to make from the start in regards to hydrolox, SMART and ACES, i got derailed, but that’s what I was trying to get at

  • Zed_WEASEL

    The Centaur V for the Vulcan is basically the ACES without the IVF parts. It seems that ULA have consolidated multiple upper stage paths into one to save time and money.

  • passinglurker

    You seem to be missing the endgame then it’s only fair we consider what ula’s endgame is if we are gonna compare anything to spacex’s endgame.

  • Michael Halpern

    Their end game seems to be bankruptcy, what other possible endgame can there be for a company that provides a service no one can afford when they can aquire an equal or better service for less elsewhere?

  • passinglurker

    What are you talking about? Vanilla Vulcan is price and performance competitive with a reusable falcon heavy flight to GTO and beyond and that’s before ACES and SMART. Don’t tell me you’ve been running your mouth this whole time without knowing.

  • Michael Halpern

    not really, 10m more w/o srbs and that performance as I understand it only comes when 6 srbs are strapped to it, in 561 configuration which will be well over $100m

  • passinglurker

    Then you misunderstand.

    Falcon heavy reusable is ~8tons to gto for ~90mil (give or take insurance, special requests, ride shares, shenanigans, future price drops, etc)

    Vulcan/CentaurV 504 is targeted to be ~8tons to gto for no more than ~100mil (again give or take insurance and such) the heavy 564 you are citeing meanwhile would be ~16tons to gto for what I would speculate to be no more than 130mil (remember gem63xl’s are cheaper than those old aj60 strap-on’s)

    It’s not in ula’s interest to actually beat spacex on price falcon has a lot of profit margin to eat in a race to the bottom ula would lose but by hanging close behind they can keep up. For a big geo bird this difference in price is chump change ergo it is competitive its the range where extra circumstances come into play (insurance, schedule, redundancy, discounts from the payload manufacturer if boeing and lockmart start copying orbitalatk’s plan, etc) so it’s not so far fetched that ula can meet their required launch cadence as long as spacex is looking to recoup its dev costs.

  • Lee

    Man, I’ve eaten twice my body weight in popcorn watching this thread lol!

  • Michael Halpern

    Except it isn’t just SpaceX that Vulcan will be competing with, in the US alone even if you dont count bfr there are 3 vehicles it has to compete against, Falcon Heavy, OmegA and New Glenn, all of which are more vertical

  • passinglurker

    Verticality is nice but once Spacex broke the stagnant cycle by working in house competition is back and anything goes. As for competition that’s a good thing we want there to be multiple redundant affordable launch providers.

  • Michael Halpern

    IIRC in order to make their business case for Vulcan, ULA needs to sell on the order of 7 to 10 launches, this will prove very difficult as their competition is either cheaper or can package the launch with a satellite, and they need at least one commercial buyer before its acceptable for military sats

  • passinglurker

    Only 7? Wow that’s better than I thought I was assuming 12.

    Anyway both boeing and lockmart make payloads and see a share of ULA’s profits so they could potentially offer bundle discounts to some degree, and as for cheaper I’ve already explained that the prices are close enough that factors other than simple cost start coming into play not to mention flights of starliner and dreamchaser after Atlas’s retirement could eventually become a thing to fill out the launch manifest (btw sub optimal launch rates are acceptable at the debut all rockets take time to ramp up)

    Finally they haven’t picked an engine yet so I doubt they are taking preorders.

  • Michael Halpern

    Boeing is making more money making satellites that fly on f9,

  • passinglurker

    A discounted payload and launcher bundle is more money in boeing’s pocket than just the payload alone. It’s the same reason OrbitalATK still flies antares instead of flying cygnus on any other rocket.