Following completion of a competitive procurement, ULA has selected Blue Origin’s BE-4 engine for Vulcan Centaur’s booster stage. The liquefied natural gas (LNG) fueled booster will be powered by a pair of BE-4 engines, each producing 550,000 pounds of sea level thrust. As previously announced, ULA has selected Aerojet Rocketdyne’s RL10 engine for the Centaur upper stage, Northrop Grumman solid rocket boosters, L‑3 Avionics Systems avionics, and RUAG’s payload fairings and composite structures for the new Vulcan Centaur rocket system.
ULA says its on track for a mid-2020 flight of the BE-4-powered Vulcan. I was expecting to hear a bit of a delay with this announcement, because past statements sounded a lot like, “This is what we said previously so we’re going to say the same thing again until we update the schedule when we make the selection.”
I’m curious to see if and when ULA will sign the first customer. We should hear the Air Force’s LSA award in October, which will probably send some work ULA’s way, and with it, some launches. But if ULA isn’t able to book any other customers, that will be telling.
Overall, it’s a good day for Vulcan. And an even better one for New Glenn.