The Path to Vulcan

Colorado Springs, Colo.—The United Launch Alliance is urging Congress to allow it to make use of its remaining stock of Russian-made RD-180 rocket engines, contingent upon making progress in developing its newly unveiled Vulcan launch vehicle, said ULA President and CEO Tory Bruno here on Tuesday during an industry panel at the 31st Space Symposium. Rather than bar the Air Force and ULA from using the controversial rocket engine in the near-term, Bruno said he would prefer that legislators placed an “event-based limit” on the company, allowing it to continue to use the RD-180 as long as it is meeting key milestones in the development of its replacement vehicle. He acknowledged lawmakers likely would not grant the company’s request, but said the restrictions on the Air Force’s use of the RD-180 that Congress placed in Fiscal 2015 defense legislation left the service in a difficult situation. In light of this, Bruno said during an April 13 media briefing where he unveiled the Vulcan that the company would aggressively work to make the vehicle ready to launch around 2019. He said ULA has a plan to certify the vehicle to conduct Air Force evolved expendable launch vehicle-class missions by 2020.