Open main menu

United Launch Alliance (ULA) is a US launch service provider that manufactures and operates a number of rocket vehicles capable of orbiting spacecraft. It was formed as a joint venture between Lockheed Martin Space Systems and Boeing Defense, Space & Security in December 2006. United States government launch customers include the DoD and NASA, as well as other organizations.[2]

United Launch Alliance
Private
IndustryAerospace
FoundedDecember 1, 2006; 12 years ago (2006-12-01)
HeadquartersCentennial, Colorado, U.S.
Key people
Tory Bruno (CEO)
Products
Number of employees
2,500[1]
Websiteulalaunch.com

ULA provides launch services using two expendable launch systemsDelta IV Heavy and Atlas V. The Atlas, Delta IV Heavy, and recently retired Delta IV Medium launch system families have launched a variety of payloads including weather, telecommunications, and national security satellites and scientific probes and orbiters. ULA provides launch services to commercial satellites.[3]

ULA is currently in the process of developing Vulcan Centaur, a successor to the Atlas V that also incorporates some Delta IV technology.[4][5] As of 2019, Vulcan launches were planned to begin in 2021.[6] The Advanced Cryogenic Evolved Stage (ACES) is planned to replace Centaur V on Vulcan no earlier than 2023.[7][8]

ActivitiesEdit

Headquarters and manufacturingEdit

ULA's headquarters in Centennial, Colorado are responsible for program management, rocket engineering, testing, and launch support functions.[9]

ULA's largest factory is 1.6 million square feet and located in Decatur, Alabama.[10] A factory in Harlingen, Texas fabricates and assembles components for the Atlas V rocket.[11] In 2015, the company announced the opening of an engineering and propulsion test center in Pueblo, Colorado.[12]

Launch facilitiesEdit

 
ULA's Horizontal Integration Facility at CCAFS in February 2018

The company operates orbital launch sites at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) and Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB).[13] CCAFS is located on the US East Coast, allowing satellites to head east and gain extra momentum from the rotation of the Earth. VAFB is located on the US West Coast, with a clear flight path to the south, allowing launches to polar orbit.[14]

Atlas V launches from SLC-41 at CCAFS,[15][16] and from SLC-3 at VAFB.[17][18]

Delta IV Heavy currently launches from SLC-37 at CCAFS[19][20] and SLC-6 at VAFB.[21][22]

ULA intends to operate only two Vulcan Centaur launch pads by the early 2020s.[23]

Atlas V and Delta IVEdit

ULA operates the Atlas V and Delta IV launch vehicles.[24][25] The Atlas V and Delta IV rockets were developed under the EELV program, with the first launches of both occurring in 2002.[26]

Delta IV Medium was retired on 22 August 2019,[27][28] but Delta IV Heavy rockets will keep launching heavy payloads.[29]

United Launch Alliance fleet: left to right, Delta IV Heavy, Atlas V 400-series, Atlas V 500-series

Vulcan CentaurEdit

On 14 August 2019, it was announced that the second Vulcan Centaur certification flight will be the first of six Dream Chaser CRS-2 flights. Launches are planned to begin in 2021 and will use the four-SRB Vulcan configuration.[6]

On 19 August 2019, it was announced that Astrobotic Technology's Peregrine lander will launch on the first Vulcan certification flight. Peregrine is currently intended to launch in 2021 from the dual-use SLC-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.[30]

HistoryEdit

 
ULA's headquarters building in Centennial, Colorado

Boeing and Lockheed Martin announced their intent to form a joint venture on 2 May 2005. The United Launch Alliance name was announced at the same time.[31]

ULA had a peak of seven space launch facilities during 2005–2011, including three Delta II launchpads. The Delta II sites were decommissioned starting in 2011.[32]

 
ULA launch service costs under the Block Buy

An uncontested $11 billion US Air Force block-buy of 36 rocket cores for up to 28 launches, awarded in Dec 2013, drew a protest from competitor SpaceX. SpaceX has claimed the cost of ULA's launches are approximately $460 million each, and has proposed a price of $90 million to provide similar launches.[33] In response, then-CEO Michael Gass claimed an average launch price of $225 million, with future launches as low as $100 million.[34]

ULA's original CEO Michael Gass stepped down in August 2014 and was replaced by Tory Bruno.[35]

In October 2014, ULA announced a major restructuring of processes and workforce.[36] CEO Tory Bruno stated in November 2014 that the structuring was intended to "lead to improvements in how ULA interacts with its customers, both governmental and commercial," shorten launch cycles, and cut launch costs in half again.[37] ULA is transitioning to operating two launch pads, down from five in 2015.[23]

In May 2015, ULA stated that it would go out of business unless it won commercial and civil satellite launch orders to offset an expected slump in U.S. military and spy launches.[38] The same month, ULA announced it would decrease its executive ranks by 30 percent in December 2015, with the layoff of 12 executives. The management layoffs are the "beginning of a major reorganization and redesign" as ULA endeavours to "slash costs and hunt out new customers to ensure continued growth despite the rise of SpaceX".[39][40]

In July 2017 ULA was awarded $191 million to launch STP-3 aboard a heavy-lift Atlas V 551.[41]

In January 2018, ULA took over marketing and sales responsibilities for Atlas V launches.[42]

Delta IV Heavy launched the Parker Solar Probe on 12 August 2018, marking the first flight of Delta IV Heavy with a Star-48BV kick stage[43] and the highest ever spacecraft velocity.[44]

Notable LaunchesEdit

The first launch conducted by ULA was a Delta II from Vandenberg Air Force Base on December 14, 2006.[45] The rocket carried the USA-193 satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office.[46]

On June 15, 2007, the engine in the Centaur upper stage of a ULA-launched Atlas V shut down early, leaving its payload – a pair of NRO L-30 ocean surveillance satellites – in a lower than intended orbit.[47] The NRO declared the launch a success.[48]

A launch of the Atlas V rocket on March 22, 2016 had a minor first-stage anomaly that led to shutdown of the first-stage engine approximately five seconds before anticipated. The Centaur upper stage was able to compensate by firing for approximately one minute longer than planned, using reserved fuel margin.[49]

On 8 September 2016, OSIRIS-REx was successfully launched into a heliocentric orbit on an asteroid sample return mission by an Atlas V.[50]

ULA's Atlas V launch of NASA's InSight to Mars in 2018 was the first interplanetary probe to depart from the US West Coast.[51]

The final Delta II rocket was launched on 15 September 2018 with ICESat-2 from SLC-2.[52]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "About ULA". United Launch Alliance. Archived from the original on 10 February 2019. Retrieved 17 April 2019.
  2. ^ "SpaceX breaks Boeing-Lockheed monopoly on military space launches". Reuters. 2016-04-28. Retrieved 2016-04-29.
  3. ^ Justin Ray (November 23, 2009). "Atlas 5 launches Intelsat communications satellite". Spaceflight Now.
  4. ^ Gruss, Mike (April 13, 2015). "ULA's Next Rocket to Be Named Vulcan". SpaceNews. Retrieved July 30, 2018.
  5. ^ Grush, Loren (September 27, 2018). "Military's primary launch provider picks Blue Origin's new engine for future rocket". The Verge. Retrieved October 3, 2018.
  6. ^ a b "SNC Selects ULA for Dream Chaser® Spacecraft Launches: NASA Missions to Begin in 2021". ULALaunch. 14 August 2019. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
  7. ^ Gruss, Mike (13 April 2015). "ULA's Vulcan Rocket To be Rolled out in Stages". Space News. Retrieved 6 March 2016.
  8. ^ Butler, Amy (11 May 2015). "Industry Team Hopes To Resurrect Atlas V Post RD-180". Aviation Week & Space Technology. Archived from the original on 12 May 2015. Retrieved 6 March 2016.
  9. ^ Avery, Greg (April 5, 2010). "United Launch Alliance to stay in Centennial area at expanded HQ campus". Denver Business Journal. Retrieved August 9, 2018.
  10. ^ Clines, Keith (February 26, 2017). "ULA rocket plant a boost to Decatur's image". The Decatur Daily. Retrieved November 13, 2018.
  11. ^ Kelley, Rick (April 14, 2017). "ULA to cut workforce by 875 workers". Valley Morning Star. Retrieved November 13, 2018.
  12. ^ Wallace, Alicia (July 24, 2015). "Pueblo lands United Launch Alliance rocket R&D operation". The Denver Post. Retrieved November 13, 2018.
  13. ^ Grush, Loren (May 7, 2018). "The United Launch Alliance's rocket makers strike over their latest contract offer". The Verge. Retrieved May 31, 2018.
  14. ^ Dean, James (December 31, 2017). "Southbound? Cape rockets may fly new path toward poles". Florida Today. Retrieved November 13, 2018.
  15. ^ Graham, William (August 29, 2012). "Atlas V launches at the third attempt with RBSP spacecraft". NASASpaceFlight.com. Retrieved June 5, 2018.
  16. ^ Graham, William (October 15, 2017). "Atlas V successfully launches with NROL-52". NASASpaceFlight.com. Retrieved June 5, 2018.
  17. ^ Howell, Elizabeth (April 9, 2018). "Atlas V: Reliable, Flexible Rocket". Space.com. Retrieved June 5, 2018.
  18. ^ Graham, William (April 14, 2018). "ULA Atlas V successfully launches with AFSPC-11". NASASpaceFlight.com. Retrieved June 5, 2018.
  19. ^ Graham, William (March 18, 2017). "ULA Delta IV successfully launches WGS-9". NASASpaceFlight.com. Retrieved June 5, 2018.
  20. ^ Graham, William (May 27, 2010). "Delta IV finally launches with GPS IIF SV-1 following scrubs". NASASpaceFlight.com. Retrieved June 5, 2018.
  21. ^ Howell, Elizabeth (September 21, 2016). "Vandenberg: West Coast Launch Site". Space.com. Retrieved June 5, 2018.
  22. ^ Graham, William (January 12, 2018). "ULA Delta IV successfully launches NROL-47". NASASpaceFlight.com. Retrieved June 5, 2018.
  23. ^ a b Butler, Amy (17 February 2015). "Aerospace Daily & Defense Report New Rocket, White Tails In ULA's Long-Term Strategy". Aviation Week. Retrieved 22 February 2015. [the] plan to field a new rocket engine with Blue Origin called the BE-4 is only step one of a larger strategic plan to take the company from a sole-source benefactor mentality to competing in a burgeoning commercial market. ... The Atlas V and Delta IV ... both have a limited future.
  24. ^ "United Launch Alliance Set to Launch AEHF-4 for U.S. Air Force". finance.yahoo.com. Yahoo Finance. Retrieved 18 November 2018.
  25. ^ Awesome Atlas delivers next-gen high-speed Echostar 19 internet sat to orbit for America. Ken Kremer, PhysOrg. 19 December 2016.
  26. ^ Graham, William (April 14, 2018). "ULA Atlas V successfully launches with AFSPC-11". NASASpaceFlight.com. Retrieved July 30, 2018.
  27. ^ Ray, Justin (4 March 2015). "Could Delta rockets soon be a thing of the past?". Spaceflight Now. Retrieved 8 December 2016.
  28. ^ Gruss, Mike (April 13, 2015). "ULA's Vulcan Rocket to be Rolled out in Stages". SpaceNews. Retrieved July 30, 2018.
  29. ^ Gruss, Mike (March 3, 2015). "ULA Targets 2018 for Delta 4 Phase-out, Seeks Relaxation of RD-180 Ban". SpaceNews. Retrieved August 20, 2018.
  30. ^ "Astrobotic Selects United Launch Alliance Vulcan Centaur Rocket to Launch its First Mission to the Moon". ULALaunch. 19 August 2019. Retrieved 19 August 2019.
  31. ^ "Boeing, Lockheed Martin to Form Launch Services Joint Venture". United Launch Alliance. 2 May 2005. Archived from the original on 17 April 2019. Retrieved 17 April 2019.
  32. ^ Graham, William (2 July 2014). "ULA Delta II successfully lofts OCO-2 to orbit". NASASpaceflight.com. Retrieved 22 February 2015.
  33. ^ Leopold, George (Apr 2014). "SpaceX launches protest of Air Force rocket contract". Defense Systems.
  34. ^ Gurss, Mike (May 2014). "Responding to Critics, ULA Discloses Pricing Information". Space News.
  35. ^ "United Launch Alliance Taps a Lockheed Executive To Replace CEO Gass". Space News. 2014-08-12. Retrieved 2014-08-13.
  36. ^ Avery, Greg (2014-10-16). "ULA plans new rocket, restructuring to cut launch costs in half". Denver Business Journal. Retrieved 2014-11-14.
  37. ^ Delgado, Laura M. (2014-11-14). "ULA's Tory Bruno Vows To Transform Company". SpacePolicyOnline.com. Retrieved 2014-11-14.
  38. ^ "Lockheed-Boeing rocket venture needs commercial orders to survive". Yahoo News. 21 May 2015.
  39. ^ Shalal, Andrea (2015-05-15). "Lockheed-Boeing venture lays off 12 executives in major reorganization". Reuters. Retrieved 16 May 2015.
  40. ^ Shalal, Andrea (2015-05-21). "Lockheed-Boeing rocket venture needs commercial orders to survive". Reuters. Archived from the original on 2015-05-22. Retrieved 2015-05-22.
  41. ^ "Department of Defense Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 Budget Estimates" (PDF). Saffm.hq.af.mil. May 2017. Retrieved 2017-08-11.
  42. ^ "United Launch Alliance Assumes Marketing and Sales for Atlas V Commercial Launches from Lockheed Martin". United Launch Alliance. 22 January 2018. Archived from the original on 17 April 2019. Retrieved 17 April 2019. United Launch Alliance (ULA) announced today that it has assumed responsibility for the marketing and sales of Atlas V, the world’s most reliable launch vehicle, from Lockheed Martin Commercial Launch Services. In addition to performing all of the operational activities related to Atlas V launch services, as ULA has done since its formation in 2006, ULA now has the full authority to market and sell Atlas V launch services to commercial customers.
  43. ^ Clark, Stephen (March 18, 2015). "Delta 4-Heavy selected for launch of solar probe". Spaceflight Now. Retrieved March 18, 2015.
  44. ^ "NASA Press Kit: Parker Solar Probe" (PDF). NASA. Retrieved 15 August 2018.
  45. ^ "United Launch Alliance set for takeoff". Metro Denver EDC.
  46. ^ "DoD Succeeds In Intercepting Non-Functioning Satellite" (Press release). U.S. Department of Defense. February 20, 2008. Retrieved 2009-10-09.
  47. ^ "NRO Shortfall May Delay Upcoming ULA Missions". Aviation Week.
  48. ^ "NRO L-30 Launch Update" (PDF). National Reconnaissance Office. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-02-17.
  49. ^ Ray, Justin (24 March 2016). "Atlas 5 rocket forced to improvise during Tuesday's climb to orbit". SpaceFlight Now. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
  50. ^ "United Launch Alliance Successfully Launches OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft for NASA". United Launch Alliance. 8 September 2016. Retrieved 10 September 2016.
  51. ^ Graham, William (May 5, 2018). "Atlas V launches first West Coast interplanetary mission with InSight spacecraft to Mars". NASASpaceFlight.com. Retrieved November 13, 2018.
  52. ^ "Delta II concludes amazing legacy with ICESat-2 launch – NASASpaceFlight.com". www.nasaspaceflight.com. Retrieved 2018-09-16.

External linksEdit