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Capitalism in space: According to this Space News story today, it appears that ULA is shifting away from building a major upgrade to the upper stage of its Vulcan rocket, even as it also appears to be backing off from pushing plans to recover and reuse its first stage engines.
ULA spokeswoman Jessica Rye told SpaceNews by email that the company still plans to introduce an “advanced upper stage,” but only after Vulcan flies. Rye also declined to provide a specific timeline.
Similarly, ULA officials also refused to give a timeline for when they will begin recovering Vulcan’s first stage engines and reusing them.
Right now the company expects to launch the first iteration of Vulcan, using as Atlas 5 Centaur upper stage, sometime in 2021. It also appears that those first launches will not recover the first stage Blue Origin BE-4 engines.
In the long run, I do not see how ULA can compete. They certainly appear hesitant about introducing any new innovations or upgrades to Vulcan, which will result in an expendable rocket that costs far too much.
In fact, the arrival of this apparent timidity seems to have occurred almost to the day the company accepted a development contract for Vulcan from the Air Force. Thus, it increasingly appears that it is our federal government that is squelching the company’s creativity.
Why am I not surprised?