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Vulcan-Centaur-564 (?) [ULA]

The Vulcan launch system, provisionally called NGLS (NGLS), is a replacement under development by ULA (United Launch Alliance) to replace both the Atlas-5 and Delta-4 families.

The vehicle familiy is built on the base vehicle core featuring 5 m diameter tankage inherited from the Delta-4 and a LOX / LNG fueled propulsion system using two Blue Origin built BE-4 engines. The basic stage can be enhanced by one to six GEM-63XL solid motors manufactured by Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems (NGIS) (formerly Orbital ATK).

Initally Stage 1 will be expendable. In 2023 the Sensible, Modular, Autonomous Return Technology (SMART) initiative will be introduced, which allows ULA to reuse the most expensive portion of the first stage the booster main engines via mid-air capture. This allows a controlled recovery environment providing the confidence needed to re-fly the hardware.

Initially the 3.05 m diameter Centaur-3 upper stage of Atlas-5 was be used with a 4 m and 5 m fairings. In early 2018, it was decided to skip these versions.

The initial Vulcan versions will now feautre a 5.4 meters diameter Centaur-5 stage, featuring two RL10C-X engines. After Centaur-5 aimproved variant, Centaur-5, will be introduced with an engine upgrade in a 2 engine configuration. A Centaur-5+ Long will be implemented later, which will support 170klb of propellants and is not yet decided if it is to use two or four engines.

Finally, the Centaur second stage will be replaced by the more powerful ACES in 2023, which shares the tooling with Centaur-5. With the addition of ACES, Vulcan will achieve the current capability of the Delta-4 Heavy, which carries the largest payloads for our most critical customers. ACES will feature initially one to four RL10 engines, later to be downselected to BE-3U or XCOR engines.

Vulcan Centaur-5 and Vulcan ACES will use 5 m payload fairings.

Likely the Atlas-5 launch pads, SLC-41 at Cape Canaveral AFB and SLC-3E at Vandenberg AFB, will be modified to launch the Vulcan-boosters.

The maiden launch is planned for mid 2020.

Launch Vehicle Strap-On Stage 1 Stage 2
Vulcan Centaur-5 0 - 6 × GEM-63XL Stg 1 / 2 × BE-4 or AR-1 Centaur-5 / 2 × RL10C-1
Vulcan Centaur-5+ 0 - 6 × GEM-63XL Stg 1 / 2 × BE-4 or AR-1 Centaur-5+ / 2 × RL10C-X
Vulcan Centaur-5+Long 0 - 6 × GEM-63XL Stg 1 / 2 × BE-4 or AR-1 Centaur-5+Long / 2 or 4 × RL10C-X
Vulcan ACES 0 - 6 × GEM-63XL Stg 1 / 2 × BE-4 or AR-1 ACES / TBD
Nr:  TNr: Vehicle:        Serial:   Fair: LS:         Date:         Payload


Launch sites:

CC  = Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Eastern Test Range, Cape Canaveral, Florida, USA USA
Va  = Vandenberg AFB, California, USA USA