Centaur Upper Stage for First Starliner Flight Arrives at Cape

The Centaur heads for ULA’s Cape Canaveral facilities. (Credit: NASA)

The Centaur heads for ULA’s Cape Canaveral facilities. (Credit: NASA)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (ULA PR) — The dual-engine Centaur upper stage that will launch Boeing’s first Starliner spacecraft on its uncrewed Orbital Flight Test to the International Space Station has arrived at Cape Canaveral for final processing by United Launch Alliance technicians.

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First Vulcan Launch Slips to 2021

Artist’s conception of Vulcan rocket. (Credit: ULA)

SpaceNews reports the first launch of ULA’s new Vulcan booster will slip from 2020 to spring 2021.

During a panel discussion at the American Astronautical Society’s Wernher von Braun Symposium here Oct. 24, John Elbon, chief operating officer of ULA, said the company was making “good progress” on the vehicle, an effort aided by winning one of three Launch Service Agreement (LSA) awards from the U.S. Air Force Oct. 10.

“We’re making good progress on the development” of Vulcan, he said. “Our first certification flight is targeted for April of ’21. We were really excited about the results of the Air Force’s LSA procurement. We’re off and marching.”

As recently as last month, though, ULA said the first Vulcan launch was scheduled for 2020, a date the company had bene holding for some time. In a Sept. 27 release about its selection of Blue Origin’s BE-4 engine for Vulcan’s first stage, the company said the vehicle “is on track for its initial flight in mid-2020.”

United Launch Alliance Successfully Launches AEHF-4 Mission

ULA Atlas V rocket carrying the AEHF-4 mission for the U.S. Air Force lifts off from Space Launch Complex-41. (Credit: ULA)

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla., Oct. 17, 2018 (ULA PR) – A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying the fourth Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) mission for the U.S. Air Force lifted off from Space Launch Complex-41 on Oct. 17 at 12:15 a.m. EDT. The launch of AEHF-4 marks ULA’s 50th launch for the U.S. Air Force; ULA’s first Air Force mission was Space Test Program-1 (STP-1), launched March 8, 2007.

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U.S. Air Force Awards Launcher Development Contracts to ULA, Blue Origin & Northrop Grumman

Artist’s conception of Vulcan rocket. (Credit: ULA)

The U.S. Air Force has awarded contracts worth more than $2.2 billion for launch vehicle development to United Launch Alliance (ULA), Blue Origin and Northrop Grumman.

ULA of Centennial, Colo., will receive $967 million for the development of a launch system prototype of the Vulcan-Centaur booster. 

The agreement includes shared cost investment by ULA. The work is expected to be completed by March 31, 2025. 

OmegA rocket (Credit: Orbital ATK)

Northrop Gumman was awarded a contract worth $791,601,015 for development of the OmegA launch system. The company expects to to complete the work by Dec. 31, 2024. 

New Glenn is a reusable, vertical-landing booster with 3.85 million pounds of thrust, (Credit: Blue Origin)

Blue Origin has been awarded a $500 million contract for the development of the New Glenn launch system. The booster will launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.  The work is expected to be completed by July 31, 2024.

NanoRacks Announces Industry Team Supporting NASA LEO Commercialization Proposal

BREMEN, Germany, October 2, 2018 (NanoRacks PR) — In August 2018, NanoRacks was one of 13 companies selected by NASA to study the future of commercial human spaceflight in low-Earth orbit, including long-range opportunities for the International Space Station.

Today, NanoRacks is pleased to share the expansive industry team that the Company will be working with to complete this study and show the viability of commercial habitats (“Outposts”) in low-Earth orbit and the future of International Space Station commercial utilization.
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ULA Selects Blue Origin BE-4 Engine for Vulcan Centaur Rocket

BE-4 engine firing (Credit: Blue Origin)

Centennial, Colo., Sept. 27, 2018 (ULA PR) – United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) next-generation rocket – the Vulcan Centaur – is making strong progress in development and is on track for its initial flight in mid-2020. The Vulcan Centaur rocket design leverages the proven success of the Delta IV and Atlas V launch vehicles while introducing advanced technologies and innovative features.

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Report: Blue Origin Wins Engine Contract for ULA’s Vulcan Booster

BE-4 staged combustion testing (Credit: Blue Origin)

The Wall Street Journal reports that Blue Origin has won a contract from United Launch Alliance to supply BE-4 engines for United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan launch vehicle. An announcement is expected today.

The decision would be a defeat for Aerojet Rocketdyne, which has been developing the AR1 engine.

The long-term, potentially multibillion-dollar agreement could provide a boost to Blue Origin’s eventual goal of becoming a major military launch provider itself. The company plans to use the same engines to power its own heavy-lift launcher, called New Glenn, which is currently under development.

Competition in the satellite-launch business is heating up. The Air Force is considering how to divvy up hundreds of millions of federal dollars to develop a fleet of lower-cost, more versatile rockets. Blue Origin, United Launch, Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. and Northrop Grumman Corp.’s Innovation Systems unit, formerly known as Orbital ATK, are all in the running. The Air Force is preparing to shortly announce the first-stage winners….

Negotiations between United Launch and Blue Origin dragged on for months, with both sides bargaining hard over price, delivery schedules and production reliability. Other hurdles, according to two people familiar with the details, included United Launch’s concerns about relying on a prospective rival for its most important engine supply. It couldn’t be learned what provisions were hammered out.

Blue Origin beat out Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings Inc., which had sought to sell its AR1 engine as the primary propulsion system for the Vulcan. A spokesman for Aerojet, which previously was picked to provide smaller, upper-stage engines for the ULA rocket, said “we are committed” to the AR1 engine and “will have a test-ready engine in 2019.” The spokesman also said that regardless of the decision, Aerojet’s “liquid engine business is thriving,” and the AR1 remains an option for possible smaller launch vehicles on the drawing board.

Northrop Grumman Completes First Qualification Test of New Rocket Motor for ULA Atlas V

On Sept. 20, 2018, in Promontory, Utah, Northrop Grumman conducted the first ground test of its newly-developed GEM 63 rocket motor that will fly on United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V launch vehicle. (Credit: Northrop Grumman)

DULLES, Va., Sept. 20, 2018 (Northrop Grumman PR) – Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) conducted its first ground test of a 63-inch diameter Graphite Epoxy Motor (GEM 63) today in Promontory, Utah. Utilizing advanced technologies, the company developed this new rocket motor for use on the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V launch vehicle.

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Last Delta II Launches NASA’s IceSat-2 Spacecraft

An ULA Delta II rocket carrying the ICESat-2 mission for NASA lifts off from Space Launch Complex-2 at 6:02 a.m. PT. (Credit: United Launch Alliance)

Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., (Sept. 15, 2018) – A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta II rocket carrying NASA’s Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) spacecraft lifted off from Space Launch Complex-2 on Sept. 15 at 6:02 a.m. PDT. This marks the final mission of the Delta II rocket, which first launched on Feb. 14, 1989, and launched 155 times including ICESat-2.
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NASA’s IceSat-2 Satellite Set for Launch From Vandenberg on Saturday

This image shows the ATLAS instrument inside a Goddard cleanroom where the instrument was assembled. (Credits: NASA/D. McCallum)

NASA’s Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2, or ICESat-2, a mission to measure the changing height of Earth’s ice, is scheduled to launch Saturday, Sept. 15, with a 40-minute window opening at 5:46 a.m. PDT (8:46 a.m. EDT).

The spacecraft will lift off from Space Launch Complex 2 (SLC-2) at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on the final launch of a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket. The U.S. Air Force 30th Space Wing weather officer reported they are predicting a 100 percent chance of favorable weather on launch day.

Be sure to follow along during the live coverage events below.

NASA EDGE Tower Rollback Show, Friday, Sept. 14, at 6 p.m. PDT (9 p.m. EDT)

Watch live at:

NASA TV: www.nasa.gov/nasalive
NASA EDGE Facebook: www.facebook.com/nasaedgefan
NASA LSP Facebook: www.facebook.com/NASALSP
NASA EDGE YouTube: www.youtube.com/NASAedge
NASA EDGE Ustream: www.usream.tv/nasaedge

Guests:

  • Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington
  • Doug McLennan, ICESat-2 project manager, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
  • Kelly Brunt, ICESat-2 science team member, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
  • Rex Engelhardt, mission manager, NASA’s Launch Services Program
  • Mic Woltman, chief, Fleet Systems Integration Branch, NASA’s Launch Services Program
  • Tim Dunn, launch director, NASA Kennedy Space Center
  • Tom Neumann, ICESat-2 deputy project scientist, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
  • Donya Douglas-Bradshaw, ATLAS instrument project manager, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
  • Dana VanDersaral, mission assurance team, United Launch Alliance

Live Launch Coverage, Saturday, Sept. 15, 5:10 a.m. PDT (8:10 a.m. EDT)
Join us for updates from the countdown, here on the blog and on NASA TV.

ULA to Launch Final Delta II with NASA’s ICESat-2 Satellite on Saturday

Delta II launches the JPSS-1 satellite. (Credit: ULA)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif., Sept. 12, 2018 (ULA PR) – A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta II rocket is in final preparations to launch NASA’s Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) spacecraft from Space Launch Complex-2 on Sept. 15. This marks the final launch of the Delta II rocket, which first launched on Feb. 14, 1989.

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Viasat Select’s ULA’s Atlas V for Commercial Satellite Launch

Atlas V launches Orbital ATK-designed satellites for the U.S. Air Force. (Credit: ULA)

PARIS, Sept. 10, 2018 (ULA PR) – Global communications company, Viasat Inc., (Nasdaq: VSAT) announced today it selected United Launch Alliance’s (ULA’s) proven Atlas V vehicle to launch one of its ViaSat-3 satellite missions. This is the first commercial contract ULA has directly signed since assuming responsibility for the marketing and sales of the Atlas V launch vehicle from Lockheed Martin Commercial Launch Services earlier this year.

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Review: Rocket Billionaires Elon Musk & Jeff Bezos Battle for Control of Space

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Rocket Billionaires: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and the New Space Race
by Tim Fernholz
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018
304 pp., illus.
ISBN 978-1-328-66223-1
US$28

In 2004, a small vehicle named SpaceShipOne built by Burt Rutan and his team at Scaled Composites and funded by Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen flew three suborbital flights, becoming the first privately-built crewed craft to exit the Earth’s atmosphere. For their efforts, Rutan and Allen won the $10 million Ansari X Prize.

Rutan quickly teamed with another billionaire, Richard Branson, to build a successor vehicle named SpaceShipTwo for Virgin Galactic that would carry two pilots and six passengers on commercial suborbital flights as early as 2007. It didn’t quite work out as planned; 14 years later, SpaceShipTwo hasn’t flown anyone to space.

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NASA Armstrong Collaborates with ULA for Cryogenic Fluid and Mid-Air Retrieval Demos

EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA is partnering with six U.S. companies to develop 10 “tipping point” technologies that have the potential to significantly benefit the commercial space economy and future NASA missions, including lunar lander and deep space rocket engine technologies.

NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California, will collaborate with United Launch Alliance (ULA) on two selected proposals.

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NASA’s Parker Solar Probe Set for Saturday Morning Launch

Parker Solar Probe (Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — At 3:33 a.m. EDT on Aug. 11, while most of the U.S. is asleep, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida will be abuzz with excitement. At that moment, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, the agency’s historic mission to touch the Sun, will have its first opportunity to lift off.

Launching from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, Parker Solar Probe will make its journey all the way to the Sun’s atmosphere, or corona — closer to the Sun than any spacecraft in history.

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