ULA Wants Blue Origin Engine By End of Year
United Launch Alliance photo
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — United Launch Alliance is hoping to receive Blue Origin’s BE-4 engine — which will be used as the engine for ULA’s new Vulcan Centaur rocket for an upcoming national security space launch — before the end of 2021, the organization’s CEO said in August.
The Space Force — in partnership with the National Reconnaissance Office — is managing the National Security Space Launch program, which enables the acquisition of launch services aimed at ensuring continued access to space for critical military and intelligence-gathering missions.
Through the program, the service has assigned seven launches to United Launch Alliance — a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Boeing.
As part of the effort, ULA bid and intended to fly its new Vulcan Centaur rocket for national security space launch mission USSF-51.
However, the rocket is not on track to be certified by the Space Force to fly by the late 2022 deadline. One issue with the Vulcan rocket is its engine, the Blue Origin-built BE-4.
According to a report released by the Government Accountability Office in June, “Weapons System Annual Assessment: Updated Program Oversight Approach Needed,” the Vulcan has been “experiencing technical challenges related to the igniter and booster capabilities required.”
Tory Bruno, president and CEO of ULA, said working on the technology is “a tough job.”
“The most complicated thing on a rocket is actually a rocket engine,” he said at the Space Foundation’s annual Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado. “I hope to have engines before the end of the year.”
The system is currently in pre-qualification testing, Bruno said.
“The rocket engine has thousands of seconds of test time to get through all the operating conditions,” he said. “It is performing great — more thrust than we expected.”