United Launch Alliance has named Orbital ATK the sole provider of solid rocket boosters for ULA’s Atlas V and Vulcan launch vehicles, starting in 2019.
Orbital will develop two solid rocket boosters, or SLRs: one to be integrated into ULA’s Atlas V vehicle for testing in late 2018 and the other for ULA’s next-gen launch vehicle Vulcan by mid-2019.
Aerojet Rocketdyne currently supplies Atlas V’s SLRs and will continue to do so until 2019.
Under current plans for the Vulcan, the Orbital boosters would be strapped to a large staged combustion engine being developed by Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin.
Aerojet, an as-yet unsuccessful suitor to acquire ULA, also has an engine it wants ULA to use in the Vulcan.
Publicly traded Orbital ATK (NYSE: OA) was formed in February by the merger of Orbital Sciences Corp. and Alliant Techsystems. ULA is a joint venture of two other aerospace mainstays, Boeing and Lockheed Martin.
“With this strategic partnership, ULA and Orbital ATK will offer customers better value and reliable access to space,” Orbital ATK chief David Thompson said in announcing the deal Sept. 22. “The capabilities and technology of the newly merged Orbital ATK enabled us to expand the partnership with ULA to help lower costs and maintain the highest standards of mission assurance.”
Financial details of the pact weren’t disclosed, but Orbital will carry at least a portion of the boosters’ development costs. The pact with ULA is non-exclusive, and Orbital plans to market the SLRs to other customers.
“As ULA transforms the space lift industry, strong partners such as Orbital ATK are critical to reducing cost, introducing cutting-edge innovation and continuing our focus on mission success,” said ULA’s CEO, Tory Bruno. “We have relied for decades on Orbital ATK’s industry leading rocket motor technology, which is ideally suited to support our future rocket launch plans.”
Orbital ATK currently supplies composite structures, nozzles, propellant tanks and booster separation motors for Delta IV and Atlas V rockets.
ULA is slated to supply two Atlas rockets for Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft on NASA cargo-delivery missions to the International Space Station in late 2015 and early 2016.