United Launch Alliance (ULA) has signed commercial contracts with multiple American companies to investigate next-generation liquid oxygen/hydrocarbon first stage propulsion concepts. In collaboration with ULA, each company will conduct technical feasibility analysis, develop high fidelity plans, identify schedule, cost and technical risks, as well as cost estimates to meet aggressive recurring cost targets. All concepts will support a first launch by 2019.
"As the nation's steward of the launch industrial base and the only company certified to launch our nation's most critical missions, it is incumbent upon ULA to bring forward the best solutions to preserve that capability for the future," said Michael Gass, ULA president and CEO.
ULA will continue to work with U.S.-based RD AMROSS (RDA), a joint venture of United Technologies (UTC) and NPO Energomash of Russia, to evaluate the long-term feasibility of the RD-180 in competition with the anticipated new engine. ULA and RDA are in continued discussions evaluating product improvements, U.S. production and other enhancements to enable its future viability.
"ULA has a number of very promising alternatives and we are working with the very best propulsion companies in America," said Dr. George Sowers, ULA's vice president of Advanced Programs, and lead for the propulsion study. "There are many exciting advanced technologies that are mature and can be used to enhance our capabilities and our competitiveness."
ULA expects to select its future concept and engine supplier by the fourth quarter of this year to enable initial launch capability by 2019 of the new system. ULA will bring its experience and a demonstrated track record of introducing new and improved products to deliver this engine on schedule. The company is evaluating the technical feasibility of these new engine concepts for both private investment and the potential for government–industry investment.
"While the RD-180 has been a remarkable success, we believe now is the right time for American investment in a domestic engine," said Gass "At the same time, given that ULA is the only certified launch provider of our nation's most important satellites, it is critical that America preserve current capabilities and options while simultaneously pursuing this new engine."
With more than a century of combined heritage, United Launch Alliance is the nation's most experienced and reliable launch service provider. ULA has successfully delivered more than 80 satellites to orbit that provide critical capabilities for troops in the field, aid meteorologists in tracking severe weather, enable personal device-based GPS navigation and unlock the mysteries of our solar system. Reliable launch, real-world benefits.