United Launch Alliance Unveils The Next Generation Of Reusable Rockets

The name Vulcan was chosen by Americans by more than 1 million online votes cast.

SpaceX is not the only company interested in reusable rockets, United Launch Alliance — a joint venture of Lockheed Martin Space Systems and Boeing Defense, Space & Security — has proven that they can make that idea a true reality in very different way.

At the 31st Space Symposium, the Alliance unveiled its next-generation launch system named Vulcan, which will transform the future of space by making launch services more affordable and accessible. The joint venture is already developing a new booster for its Vulcan rocket that it hopes to start using by 2023, and a year later plans to cut costs by using helicopters to retrieve the engines as they detach in midair after launch. The Alliance engineers also would add a small engine that will multistop cargo flights or the construction of infrastructure such as lunar bases.

041315-ULA-630“More capabilities in space mean more capabilities here on earth. Because the Next Generation Launch System will be the highest-performing, most cost-efficient rocket on the market, it will open up new opportunities for the nation’s use of space. Whether it’s scientific missions, medical advancements, national security or new economic opportunities for businesses, ULA’s new Vulcan rocket is a game-changer in terms of creating endless possibilities in space,” said Tory Bruno, President and CEO of the United Launch Alliance.

_82298349_82298348To help give all Americans a chance to play a role in the future of space, last month ULA launched an online naming competition, which allowed Americans to vote on their favorite name for the new rocket. More than one million votes were cast, and Vulcan was the top choice.

Boeing and Lockheed are self-funding the Vulcan project, which is estimated to cost $2-3 billion, including redesigning the rocket around the new engine. Some analysts remain skeptical about the target costs, which is based on an average of 20 launches per year, compared with around a dozen at present.

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