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GAO Flags Engine Problems in ULA’s Vulcan Rocket

Rocket design problems

GAO Flags Engine Problems in ULA’s Vulcan Rocket

The Government Accountability Office said in a recent report that challenges relating to the development of the main engine of United Launch Alliance’s new Vulcan rocket could lead to non-compliance with a congressional mandate to end reliance on the Russian-made RD-180 rocket engine by 2022.

ULA’s Vulcan launch vehicle, powered by Blue Origin’s BE-4 engine, is being built for the Department of Defense’s future satellite launches and will replace the Atlas 5 rocket, which uses the RD-180 engine.

GAO noted that the new launch vehicle might not be ready to support a scheduled 2021 launch due to problems with its igniter and booster capabilities, SpaceNews reported Tuesday.

Officials from the National Security Space Launch Program assured the government watchdog that Vulcan remains on track to support first launches and certification within the year.

However, officials said the Atlas 5 rocket may still be used for future launches if ULA cannot complete engine qualification before the 2021 flight certification.

ULA already ironed out the issue, saying it has reached an agreement with the Space and Missile Systems Center to use the Atlas 5 to potentially take over Vulcan’s first national security mission.

GAO also raised concerns about the Space Force’s proposed Next-Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared constellation in its report.

The office noted that immature technologies relating to satellite payloads could delay the first Next-Gen OPIR satellite launch in 2025 and potentially the entire constellation.

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Category: Space

Tags: Atlas 5 rocket Department of Defense GAO Government Accountability Office Next-Gen OPIR satellites RD-180 rocket engine satellite launch space SpaceNews United Launch Alliance Vulcan rocket