Space Symposium: Colorado-based ULA Pivotal of NASA’s Space Plans | Business
For years, the United Launch Alliance’s Atlas and Delta rockets have served as NASA’s ticket to space travel.
Since 2006, the company has successfully built and launched the rockets 140 times, taking satellites and spacecraft to the stars. A joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, ULA employs 1,300 people in Colorado and 2,600 nationwide.
With the arrival of the 2021 Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, CEO Tory Bruno took the time to answer a few email questions about the recent Starliner mission (the Boeing spacecraft to take astronauts to the International Space Station) , how the company’s rockets are built and what’s next for the aerospace company.
Q: Can you tell readers about ULA’s involvement in the Starliner mission, which was recently scheduled for an unmanned test flight?
A: The launch of the United Launch Alliance (ULA) OFT-2 mission has been delayed. We will take over the launch when our Boeing and NASA customers are ready. A ULA Atlas V launches the Boeing CST-100 Starliner. This will be Atlas’s second launch of the Starliner. Atlas performed well on the first launch, delivering Starliner to extremely precise insertion. (Note: issues with the Starliner’s propulsion system canceled the planned launch. No new launch date had been set for the deadline for this post)
Q: What are the other major upcoming projects for ULA? Can you talk specifically about the impact of your Colorado based operations on these projects / missions?
A: At ULA, we don’t just design, build and launch great rockets. We build great teams and work in partnership to achieve legendary results. The technologies we release protect our country and our troops on the battlefield, enable search and rescue, connect families across the world, and provide discovery about our solar system and places beyond. We work closely with our commercial customers at NASA, US Space Force and are committed to completing every mission in orbit.
We have several exciting missions ahead, including the launch of NASA’s Lucy spacecraft, a 12-year mission to the asteroids of Jupiter that will visit nine different bodies left behind by the Solar System’s very first formation.
Next year we will launch the maiden flight of our new Vulcan rocket which will increase the mass we can put into orbit and introduce a revolutionary Centaur V upper stage that will be able to perform entirely new missions in space, while continuing to maintain our legendary reliability and the world’s most precise orbital insertions.
Q: Do you build the rockets in Colorado?
A: ULA is headquartered in Centennial with our principal engineering staff, making up one of the largest concentrations of rocket scientists in the world.
Our main rocket factory is in Decatur, Alabama where we manufacture and assemble rockets that are 30 stories tall when fully stacked. These are literally too big to transport by rail or road, so they are shipped in pieces, via our custom designed RocketShip, across rivers to the Caribbean and to Cape Canaveral, Florida or via the Panama Canal to California. Once at the launch site, the parts are assembled, docked to a spaceship, and headed into space.
Q: What’s the “next big thing” for ULA?
A: ULA is transforming the future of space launch by making it more affordable, accessible and commercialized with its new next-generation rocket. Vulcan Centaur is superior in reliability, cost, weight and capacity, and provides a solution for the nation’s most critical need: reliable access to space. Vulcan will do it all – affordably with superior performance – while continuing to deliver ULA’s unmatched reliability and precision.
Q: How will space travel / exploration change in the years to come? What is the role of ULA in this?
A: ULA’s vision for the future is to enable the full potential of cislunar space, the region between the Earth and the Moon, as well as the asteroids that lie just beyond. This region contains incredibly vast natural resources. We are working towards a self-sustaining cislunar economy that offers the potential for a post-scarcity human future, where thousands of men and women live and work in space, and the many things that are rare here on earth are present in great abundance. ULA began to bring together people, businesses and government organizations to work towards this future.
Q: Tell readers about ULA’s participation in the Space Symposium and explain why this particular event is important to the Colorado aerospace industry.
A: Colorado plays a vital role in the national and global space industry. Space Symposium draws the attention of international, commercial, civil and defense communities, strengthening the role of the state in industry. ULA has been actively participating in the Space Symposium for many years. We support the event through our stand, sponsorships, and various meetings with customers and suppliers.