Vulcan-Centaur

 
 

United Launch Alliance


Building on a history of launch success and introducing advanced new technologies, United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Vulcan-Centaur rocket is transforming the future of space launch including the commercial satellite market.
“The Vulcan-Centaur provides our customers with greater affordability and flexibility. This new rocket enables us to launch the entire market segment for all sizes of satellites from large government and commercial satellites to small satellites”,said Tory Bruno, President and CEO of ULA.

The Vulcan-Centaur is a 5.4 meter diameter, two stage, liquid fueled rocket. The booster is powered by a pair of
BE-4 engines burning liquefied natural gas (LNG) and liquid oxygen, and together producing 1.1 million pounds of thrust at liftoff. Performance can be tailored to meet mission requirements by adding two, four or six solid rocket boosters GEM 63XL increasing the maximum thrust to 3.8 million pounds.
Centaur is a high energy, upper stage that is capable of multiple restarts and long duration missions. It is a liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen-fueled vehicle and is powered by
RL-10C engines.
Approximately 90 percent of the major components and systems derive their design heritage from Atlas and Delta and, in many cases, are currently flying on these vehicles.
Some of the systems currently flying include the complete avionics suite, the RL-10C upper stage engine and the large composite payload fairing.
The increased performance and on-orbit capabilities of Vulcan-Centaur enable direct insertion to multiple orbits including geostationary as well as the ability to dual and triple manifest GEO communications satellites.
Currently in production, the Vulcan-Centaur provides an opportunity to improve upon the proven reliability of Atlas V and Delta IV rockets originally designed two decades ago.
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The NGLS Vulcan is a new space launcher under development by ULA (United Launch Alliance) to replace both the Atlas-V and Delta-IV families.
The first step in the developing is developing a new first stage featuring the methane-fueled BE-4 engine by Blue Origin. ULA is also working with Aerojet Rocketdyne on the AR-1 engine, in case the BE-4 runs into delays. ULAs first choice is the BE-4 but that it continues to fund the AR-1 work as a backup option, and that ULA will make a final decision on in 2016.
In addition to the new engine, the Vulcans first stage would feature a stretch version of the tank used on ULAs Delta-IV rocket, which the company is phasing out in 2018 because it is too expensive. The second stage of the initial Vulcan version, slated to debut around 2019, would feature the same Centaur upper stage and fairing now used on the Atlas-V.
The Vulcan could be augmented by up to six solid rocket boosters, giving it greater lift capability than the largest version of the Atlas-V. ULA plans to issue a request for proposals within the next 12 months for the large boosters, which would likely be built by either Orbital ATK (GEM-63XL) or Aerojet Rocketdyne.
The next step in Vulcans evolution is a new upper stage known as the Advanced Cryogenic Evolved Stage, or ACES, which could be able to operate in space for weeks at a time. This would open up a whole new range of missions to the Vulcan.
The ACES stage would have anywhere from one to four cryogenic engines, depending on the mission. The candidate engines are: A new variant of the RL-10 produced by Aerojet Rocketdyne and currently used on both the Atlas-V and Delta-IV; Blue Origins BE-3U; and a piston-pump engine being jointly developed with XCOR aerospace.

 

ULA source: All plans to put Centaur III on Vulcan Centaur were dropped long ago. Also dropped were all variants with a 4m payload fairing. Vulcan Centaur will use only the "full diameter" upper stage you depict, with two RL10C-1-1 engines equipped with nozzle extensions. Only 5m payload fairings will be flown. Early versions of the upper stage will have a traditional hydrazine attitude control system as well.
 

The engine BE-4 of B.O. is meanwhile qualified and is used for the Vulcan-Centaur.