United Launch Alliance (ULA) has selected Blue Origin’s BE-4 engine for its Vulcan Centaur rocket’s booster stage.

The liquefied natural gas (LNG) fuelled booster will be powered by a pair of Blue Origin BE-4 engines, each producing 550,000 pounds of sea-level thrust.

Tory Bruno, ULA’s president and CEO, said:  “We are pleased to enter into this partnership with Blue Origin and look forward to a successful first flight of our next-generation launch vehicle.”

Nearing completion

As previously announced, ULA has selected Aerojet Rocketdyne’s RL10 engine for the Centaur upper stage. It will also use Northrop Grumman solid rocket boosters, L‑3 Avionics Systems’ avionics, and RUAG’s payload fairings and composite structures.

ULA says its Vulcan Centaur is making strong progress in development and is on track for its initial flight in mid-2020.

The new rocket design is nearing completion, and the booster preliminary design and critical design reviews have been completed, ULA says. Vulcan Centaur will have a maximum lift-off thrust of 3.8 million pounds and carry 56,000 pounds to low Earth orbit, 33,000 pounds to a geo-transfer orbit and 16,000 pounds to geostationary orbit.

The company claims Vulcan Centaur will offer greater capability than any currently available single-core launch vehicle.

Access to space

“Vulcan Centaur will revolutionise spaceflight and provide affordable, reliable access to space for our current and future customers,” said Bruno. “We are well on our way to the introduction of Vulcan Centaur – the future of US rocket manufacturing.

“With state-of-the-art engineering and manufacturing techniques, this rocket is designed specifically for low recurring cost.”

He added: “Strong partners are critical to the cutting-edge innovation that is leading us into the next generation in space and ensuring mission success.”

Bruno said ULA has been working closely with the US Air Force, and that its certification plan is “in place”.

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