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United Launch Alliance unveils America's new rocket 'Vulcan'

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A United Launch Alliance photo

COLORADO SPRINGS, COLORADO (BNS): The United Launch Alliance (ULA) has unveiled its Next Generation Launch System (NGLS) 'Vulcan' designed to transform the future of space by making launch services more affordable and accessible.

Built on decades of experience on ULA's Atlas and Delta vehicles, the NGLS combines the best features of each to produce an all-new, American-made rocket that will enable mission success from low Earth orbit all the way to Pluto, ULA said.

Last month ULA launched an online naming competition that allowed Americans to vote on their favorite name for the NGLS. More than one million votes were cast, and Vulcan was the top choice.

"More capabilities in space mean more capabilities here on earth," said Tory Bruno, president and CEO of United Launch Alliance. "Because the Next Generation Launch System will be the highest-performing, most cost-efficient rocket on the market, it will open up new opportunities for the nation's use of space.

Whether it is scientific missions, medical advancements, national security or new economic opportunities for businesses, ULA's new Vulcan rocket is a game-changer in terms of creating endless possibilities in space," he said

At the launch on 13th April, Bruno also unveiled the Sensible, Modular, Autonomous Return Technology (SMART) initiative, which will be introduced into NGLS and allow ULA to reuse the most expensive portion of the first stage-the booster main engines-via mid-air capture.

Step one of NGLS will consist of a single booster stage, the high-energy Centaur second stage and either a 4- or 5-metre-diameter payload fairing. Up to four solid rocket boosters (SRB) augment the lift off power of the 4-metre configuration, while up to six SRBs can be added to the 5-metre version.

In step two, the Centaur second stage will be replaced by the more powerful, innovative Advanced Cryogenic Evolved Stage (ACES), making the NGLS capability that of today's Delta IV Heavy rocket. ACES can execute almost unlimited burns, extending on-orbit operating time from hours to weeks.

Last year, ULA announced that it had partnered with Blue Origin, LLC, a privately funded aerospace company owned by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, to provide a cutting-edge engine for the NGLS while also providing a viable alternative to the Russian-made RD-180.

The BE-4 is designed for low recurring cost and will meet commercial and NASA requirements as well as those of the U.S. Air Force's Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) programme. The BE-4 uses low-cost liquid natural gas fuel and is designed for reuse, it said.

Tags:

ULA  Rocket  Vulcan  Space  NASA  
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