ULA Betting Big on New Vulcan Rocket for Future Business

The Mobile Service Tower rolls back from the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying NASA’s InSight mission to Mars in preparation for launch from Space Launch Complex-3 at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. Credit: United Launch Alliance.

United Launch Alliance, the launch company created from a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin went from being the go to company for launching U.S. military satellites, to being the other rocket company as SpaceX garners much of the headlines.

My guest this week on the SpaceQ podcast is Tory Bruno the President and CEO of United Launch Alliance or as it’s commonly called ULA.

Tory joined ULA from Lockheed Martin in August 2014 with a mission to evolve the company in an increasingly competitive market where competitor SpaceX was nipping at their heels to garner a portion of the very lucrative military launch business. In his four years at the helm of the company he’s had to make many changes, including downsizing the company, making the Atlas V more competitive by dropping the price by as much as 37%, developing plans for a next generation rocket named Vulcan, and more.

While the price of the Atlas V has come down, it’s still not as cheap as a comparable SpaceX product. Tory addresses this issue as well talking about the differentiators between the products, making the case that they are valuable.

Tory also says that their rocketbuilder.com had a secondary objective, promoting STEM to students and he says it’s achieving that goal as students are its heaviest users.

This version of the Vulcan rocket is the Centaur version. It will be in production before the ACES upper stage comes into production
This version of the Vulcan rocket is the Centaur version. It will be in production before the ACES upper stage comes into production. Credit: United Launch Alliance.

Those who follow the development the future Vulcan rocket and have been wondering what engine will power the first stage, Tory says that decision is coming soon. Oh, and the price range listed in the FAA’s 2018 Annual Compendium of Commercial Space Transportation, it didn’t come from ULA, and Tory won’t reveal the actual prices, yet.

And as you’ll hear from Tory, there’s also been some culture change at ULA and innovation in reusability isn’t just what SpaceX does. Importantly to ULA, their next rocket, Vulcan, will feature the Advanced Cryogenic Evolved Stage, or ACES upper stage, that the company is betting heavily on. Tory says the innovations in ACES are as if it’s 1900 and they’ve invented the airplane.

Listen in to my conversation with Tory.

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About Marc Boucher

Boucher is an entrepreneur, writer, editor & publisher. He is the founder of SpaceQ Media Inc. and CEO and co-founder of SpaceRef Interactive LLC. Boucher has 20+ years working in various roles in the space industry and a total of 30 years as a technology entrepreneur including creating Maple Square, Canada's first internet directory and search engine.

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