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Vulcan Centaur VC4S / Vulcan Centaur VC4L

Vulcan-Centaur VC4L [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 two, four or six GEM-63XL solid motors manufactured by Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems (NGIS) (formerly Orbital ATK).

Initally Stage 1 will be expendable. Later the Sensible, Modular, Autonomous Return Technology (SMART) initiative might 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 to be used with 4 m and 5 m fairings. In early 2018, it was decided to skip these versions.

The initial Vulcan versions will now feature a 5.4 meters diameter Centaur-5 stage, featuring two RL10C-1 engines. After Centaur-5 an improved 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 was originally 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 the most critical customers. ACES will feature initially one to four RL10 engines, later to be downselected to BE-3U or XCOR engines. Later ACES was shelved and many features were incorporated in Centaur-5.

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

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 was planned for 2021, but had been delayed to January 2024.

Launch Vehicle Strap-On Stage 1 Stage 2
Vulcan Centaur VC4S / Vulcan Centaur VC4L 4 × GEM-63XL Vulcan / 2 × BE-4 Centaur-5 / 2 × RL10C-1
Performance (kg) LEO LPEO SSO GTO GEO MolO IP
Vulcan Centaur VC4 24600 20000 18500 11600 4800 8900 9100

* = structural limit

Nr:  TNr: Vehicle:                      Serial:   Fair: LS:         Date:         Payload

none


Planned:

 2   1    Vulcan Centaur VC4L           V002      L     CC SLC-41   xx.xx.2024    Dream Chaser Cargo F1
 x   x    Vulcan Centaur VC4L           x         L     CC SLC-41   xx.xx.202x    Dream Chaser Cargo F2
 x   x    Vulcan Centaur VC4L           x         L     CC SLC-41   xx.xx.202x    Dream Chaser Cargo F3
 x   x    Vulcan Centaur VC4L           x         L     CC SLC-41   xx.xx.202x    Dream Chaser Cargo F4
 x   x    Vulcan Centaur VC4L           x         L     CC SLC-41   xx.xx.202x    Dream Chaser Cargo F5
 x   x    Vulcan Centaur VC4L           x         L     CC SLC-41   xx.xx.202x    Dream Chaser Cargo F6
 x   x    Vulcan Centaur VC4x           x               CC SLC-41   xx.xx.2024    USSF 87
 x   x    Vulcan Centaur VC4x           x               CC SLC-41   xx.xx.2024    USSF 112 

Launch sites:

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

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