In a move heading to confront with Elon Musk’s SpaceX and others in the launch services market, United Launch Alliance (ULA), a joint venture between Boeing Co and Lockheed Martin Corp, within months, will be conducting the final design review for its new flagship Vulcan rocket, announced the aerospace company on Wednesday.
Earlier the company had initially announced its first flight scheduled to be in 2019, but later on slipped to spring 2021, and for the company trying to move into full production ahead of that, the final design review will be a crucial milestone.
According to the lobby group of Satellite Industry Association, satellite launch services is a roughly $5.5 billion market, and for this reason, companies are under competition to develop rockets to carry satellites into orbit.
At its factory in Decatur, Alabama, ULA has begun preparing hardware and started structural and pressure testing and to the other end in Florida, engineers are busy modifying launch pad and tower to accommodate Vulcan.
For decades, Atlas and Delta, ULA’s legacy rockets, remained tantamount with American space missions but in recent years, facing mounting competition from SpaceX, the company has waged a cost-cutting campaign including job cuts and adopting new production methods.
With reusable rocket technology, that has reduced the cost of space transportation, Musk has upset the aerospace industry. And last week Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin came up saying that in 2021 it will launch its New Glenn rocket, which is still under development.
During each voyage, the burning up of rocket though makes the mission reliable but it also makes the mission costlier one and for this ULA is planning a strategy of returning the first-stage engine to Earth. Pushing the rocket higher altitudes, the first stage engine will return to Earth under parachute and a helicopter will pluck it out of mid-air.