[SatNews] ULA's CEO uncertain—FY15 National Defense Authorization Act could eliminate competition and jeopardize assured access to space—we need to develop an American rocket.
United Launch Alliance (ULA) President and CEO Tory Bruno testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Armed Services, Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, regarding the future of space and how ULA is working with innovative partners to develop an American rocket engine.
Bruno noted that ULA is well-positioned to retain its position as the unsurpassed industry leader, building on its record of reliable, on-time and on- or under-budget launch services, even as the company transforms to meet market needs. One of the company’s primary objectives is ensuring a timely and smooth transition to a domestic rocket engine.
“To end use of the RD-180 engine and make commercial investments in a new engine and system that will meet our national launch requirements, ULA needs the ability to compete into the next decade,” said Bruno. “The House has correctly addressed concern over the RD-180 engine by allowing ULA to use engines already on contract while prohibiting additional purchases, which reflects the original intent of the FY15 National Defense Authorization Act.”
ULA supports the U.S. goal of relying on American-made rocket engines to ensure access to space. To achieve that goal, ULA has signed agreements with Blue Origin and Aerojet Rocketdyne to develop engines for its next-generation launch vehicle—Vulcan.
As the Air Force testified to Congress earlier this year, a new engine requires six to eight years to develop, test, certify and prepare for operational missions. In addition, a new engine is not a direct replacement to the RD-180—any new engine would require significant booster redesign.
“One cannot just plug a new ‘form-fit-function’ engine into a rocket and expect system reliability,” said Bruno. “Neither engine under development by our partners would automatically work as a one-to-one replacement.”
During his testimony, Bruno reiterated that ULA fully supports competition in the launch industry.
“We welcome competition on a fair and level playing field. However, if the current law is not modified, America will not have assured access to space and competition will have been unintentionally eliminated, giving the new entrant a monopoly,” he said. “ULA would like to continue its stellar service to our nation’s warfighter and intelligence community, but can only do so if the replacement for the Atlas V is cost competitive.”
He noted three goals ULA is pursuing to ensure the company can continue to support the nation’s needs for assured access to space:
- Ensure ULA is able to use all of the engines currently on contract to allow for a smooth transition to an American-made engine
- Retire the Delta IV Medium launch vehicle to eliminate the costs of maintaining two infrastructures
- Develop an American-made engine that provides 35 percent greater performance over the RD-180
“I am optimistic about the future of space launch, what my company does for this nation, and the great things that come from investing in American ingenuity to advance our space needs,” said Bruno. “ULA is proud of the combined century of Atlas and Delta launch heritage, and we are transforming to continue to be the nation’s provider with a more capable, more affordable next-generation launch vehicle.”
Since its inception in 2006, ULA has launched 96 missions with 100 percent mission success. ULA’s Atlas V and Delta IV rockets are the more powerful and reliable in the world and are the only rockets that fully meet the needs of the U.S. national security community.
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 95 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.