United Launch Alliance has signed a cooperative research-and-development agreement with the U.S. Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center in support of efforts to certify the company’s future Vulcan Centaur launch vehicle for national security space missions.
The Air Force said Tuesday the cooperative, jointly-written agreement will stay in effect until all non-recurring design validation activities for the launch vehicle will be accomplished and the CRADA will look to facilitate data exchanges as well as protect proprietary and export-controlled data.
“The certification process provides a path for launch-service providers to demonstrate the capability to design, produce, qualify, and deliver a new launch system and provide the mission assurance support required to deliver NSS satellites to orbit,“ said Air Force Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves, Space and Missile Systems Center commander.
ULA's Delta IV and Atlas V, plus SpaceX's Falcon 9 Upgrade are the only launch vehicles certified by the Air Force to send national security space payloads into orbit.
The new CRADA between ULA and SMC calls on both entities to track Vulcan’s flight history, vehicle design, reliability, process maturity, safety systems, manufacturing and operations, systems engineering, risk management and launch facilities.
ULA and SMC will also monitor at least two certification flights to meet the flight history requirements outlined in the branch’s New Entrant Certification Guide.
The Boeing and Lockheed Martin joint venture ULA said Tuesday its design of the Vulcan Centaur aims to support a diverse range of market such as commercial, civil and national security space customers.
ULA has completed a preliminary design review on the vehicle in July and will conduct an inaugural flight test on the Vulcan Centaur in 2019.
ULA first introduced Vulcan in April 2015 and Orbital ATK was named the sole provider of solid boosters for the launch system rocket in September 2015 as part of a long-term strategic partnership between the two businesses.