back to article ULA's Vulcan Centaur to launch in early '23, with lunar lander and first Amazon broadband sats

Private rocketry outfit United Launch Alliance (ULA) will send its Vulcan Centaur craft into orbit for the first time in the first quarter of 2023 (hopefully), carrying two important payloads. One will be a pair of satellites belonging to Amazon's planned Project Kuiper broadband-beaming constellation. Amazon plans to build …

  1. TVU

    This is very good news because this launcher will effectively start to replace the Atlas V rocket that is dependent upon Russian RD-180 rocket engines. Fortunately, they already have a stockpile of these rocket engines so they are not subject to Russian blackmail and the remaining Atlas V missions can take place.

    1. rg287

      This is very good news because this launcher will effectively start to replace the Atlas V rocket that is dependent upon Russian RD-180 rocket engines.

      The bad news is that this launcher relies on the Blue Origin BE-4 engine, which - in true space-industry fashion - is woefully behind schedule and over budget. Without reliable, serial production of the engine, good luck launching Vulcan on any sort of regular schedule or cadence. Anyway, I look forward to its first flight in 2019 2020 2021 2022 early 2023.

      I'm sure they'll get there, but my god - Blue Origin have got shockingly little to show for 20years of effort and sugar-daddy Bezos tipping them a billion dollars a year for the past decade. Blue Origin is making SLS look affordable - at least NASA('s contractors) have managed to cobble together some flight hardware!

      1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

        ... and SLS will launch in 2016 ... 2022?

        I am concerned Bill Nelson's quote will come true:

        "If we can't do a rocket for $11.5 billion, we ought to close up shop."

        Most people assume he was talking about keeping development cost within budget but imagine if he was talking about how much Boeing+subcontractors would get per launch. He still has about $7.5B of headroom.

    2. Gene Cash Silver badge

      I still love how Congress insisted on domestic licensing and production of said engines, then completely failed to fund that. So we ended up with American military satellites lifted by Soviet engines. Delightful.

      1. TVU

        I fully agree with you and no democratic Western space faring nation should ever be dependent on hostile autocratic states for essential components of one sort or another.

        1. rg287

          I fully agree with you and no democratic Western space faring nation should ever be dependent on hostile autocratic states for essential components of one sort or another.

          The selection of the RD180 was an entirely deliberate political choice in the 1990s to send some dollars into Russia and warm up political relations as the Soviet Union broke down.

          The US was never reliant on the RD180 as such, because they had the all-American RS-68A engine available, which was used on the Delta IV.

          But the RD180 was (and is) a solid, reliable and reasonably efficient workhorse of an engine that was much cheaper than the RS-68A. So it made good capitalist sense to buy it in, as well as being a savvy economic-political move to help prop up Roscosmos as Russia transitioned to the post-Soviet era (and because NASA wanted them in a position to help on the ISS).

          It was also available in quantity - which is a problem that US manufacturers like Blue Origin seem to struggle with at the moment.

          Of course, NASA then fumbled a post-Shuttle manned-flight capability for a decade, but that doesn't make the use of the RD-180 a bad decision.

  2. John Robson Silver badge

    Two down?

    Shouldn't that two up, thousands to go?

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