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'Vulcan' - ULA's New Rocket


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ULA's Vulcan Rocket

ULA has announced a new rocket called Vulcan. It has two Blue Origin BE-4 engines on the first stage, and will begin with a Centaur upper stage and move on to the ACES upper stage. The first stage engines will separate from the first stage, decelerate in the atmosphere by some system, and be retrieved mid-air. The design no longer uses the Russian built and designed RD-180 engine. Live stream is over but was presented here: http://www.ulalaunch.com/webcast.aspx

Some things that were mentioned:

  • More powerful solid rocket boosters
  • Based off of both Atlas and Delta heritage
  • Twin BE-4 engines using methane / liquefied natural gas (I think they mentioned methane in the livestream)
  • Initially uses Centaur, then switches to ACES
  • Similar fairings, but different
  • No direct cost given, but I think Tony Bruno mentioned that a general rule for rockets is 1 billion USD for new engine, 1 billion USD for new rocket on top. Not sure if I heard correctly but I think that's it.

Please discuss below if you would like!










Edited by Woopert
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Hah! That was my name choice in the voting, too.

Hilariously ULA only offered it reluctlantly, because the original three choices (the top internal employee suggestions) were all sneered at by the public :D

But, Vulcan is a good name for a rocket. May it fly as well as the Atlas V.

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Today United Launch Alliance introduced it's new rocket design called 'Vulcan' also known the NGLS (Next Generation Launch System). Probably the most interesting part is it's reusable engines and the fact that they intend to recover it mid-air with a cargo helicopter, after it being detached from the first stage fuel tank (like the old Atlas booster engines did). According to the plan, it will also use an inflatable heat shield during re-entry. ULA expects to reduce launch costs by quite much:


What do you think of this technology? How reliable could this system be? Could it rival SpaceX's reusable boosters? Let me know about your thoughts!

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Loving what I'm seeing here. But how do you feed fuel through a heatshield?

The heat shield seems to be quite small when it's deflated. If you take a look at the engine cycle picture there's plenty of space around it. Hence why they decided to go with an inflatable one.

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The heat shield starts fully deflated & folded :) there should be plenty of space around the deflated heatshield to get fuel lines through :)

Yet, that'll increase a lot the complexity of the 1st stage, if they have to make a reliable separation mecanism to sever (and maybe seal too to protect the plumbing) when jetisonning the engines.

Yet, having to get an retrieving vehicle on standby so far at sea - with risks of adverse weather at the recuperation point - guess they won't reuse as much engines as they'll want to :)

And seriously ULA - go with ACES with new engines ASAP :P RL-10 engines costs an arm & a leg too due to their manufacturing process :P (especially if you need to put 4 of them pn an upper stage)

Edited by sgt_flyer
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Maiden launch in 2019, and they won't save the engines straight away. I can't help but to think "what will SpaceX be doing by then?".
Something incredible, to be sure, maybe testing a MethaLOX reusable stage of their own. They're already ahead of the curve.

Haven't seen any news on the BE-4, is it in testing yet or is this still wishful thinking?

Also, the paint color scheme and the stars on that model look ... terrible.


Twin BE-4 engines using methane / liquefied natural gas (I think they mentioned methane in the livestream)
LNG is predominantly methane. Edited by regex
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they have some nice ideas.. like cryo ballon tank for the last stage, engines recover with parafoil chute (the helicopter part mmm...) and other few things.

I dont know.. I like more the spacex approach or the "real vulcan (russia)" approach.


Why they copy the name? even it looks similar..

Edited by AngelLestat
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Vulkan =/= Vulcan

Ever hear of the N-1, or the N-I? One is Japanese and one is Russian. Not unprecedented...

Anyhow, it follows mythology like Atlas, and is using some interesting design decisions. It's not much like the original Vulkan.

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I wonder if they're designing it to use multiple cores, a la Delta IV and Angara?

Maybe it is designed that way. I think the Atlas V was meant to have a 'heavy' version as well like Delta IV but they never launched it. It depends on how much it boosts the performance and for what costs.

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