ULA CEO steps down

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Faced with stiff competition from SpaceX, United Launch Alliance (ULA) announced today a change in leadership.

United Launch Alliance has named a new president and chief executive to replace Michael Gass, who led the Atlas and Delta rocket company since its inception in 2006. Gass will be replaced effective immediately as president and CEO by Tory Bruno, an executive at Lockheed Martin Corp., which formed ULA in December 2006 in a 50-50 joint venture with Boeing Co., ULA said in a statement Tuesday. Gass is retiring at the end of the year, according to ULA.

Despite Gass’s planned retirement, the abrupt nature of his departure has everything to do with the competition from SpaceX, something that every single article about this change at ULA noted.



  • If you can’t stand the competition heating up, get out of the boardroom.

  • Pzatchok

    ULA is a pretty poor launch company.

    For one it does not have a hundred years of experience behind it. Just because its suppliers do does not mean it does. Its only been around a few years longer than space X.

    Second its pretty pathetic that with that this so called one hundred years of experience it could not design and build its own engines for its own rockets.

    And for this guys to step down that fast just to help make a transition before his retirement. Its pretty fishy. Is he going to be paid for the next year just to sit in an office and wait or is he retiring early?
    Did he do something that could land him and possibly ULA in hot water and they are just trying to distance themselves from him as fast as possible.
    I bet he is moving on to be a lobbyist in his retirement years. Pushing ULA to the government for a small fee.

  • Tom Billings

    “For one it does not have a hundred years of experience behind it. Just because its suppliers do does not mean it does. ”

    At the time they started up, it was assumed they carried forwards the corporate culture and skills of the companies that built previous rocket stages, like the Saturn S1C, and the Atlas, etc. Indeed, most of ULA’s employees came from Boeing and LockMart, and those were most of the “space geeks” in those 2 companies.

    “Second its pretty pathetic that with that this so called one hundred years of experience it could not design and build its own engines for its own rockets.”

    That goes along with that same transmission of corporate culture spoken about above. In the standard aerospace cost+ culture *you*do*not*pay* for*anything* you*don’t*have*a*government*contract*for*. In that culture you’re in business to lobby the government to pay for it through cost+. Anything else risks the company, just as the airline side of the business used to do. This is a big part of the reason LockMart got out of the airliner business, while Boeing was split into an airliner manufacturer and “Boeing Space and Defense”.

    Even if the space geeks at ULA were interested in going ahead with a private engine, both the partners owning the firm, LockMart and Boeing Space and Defense, would have been still firmly against it. On top of this, in the 1990s, when the EELV program was started, it was a strong competitive selling point within government to be buying engines from other Russians than those the Clinton administration had insulted when they cancelled concluding negotiations on a Treaty to put up the GPALS BMD system together. Like the ISS joint venture, the RD-180 purchase was supposed to help relations between the 2 countries.

    We all know how well *that* went!

  • Dick Eagleson

    Gass’s sudden departure might be an indication that somebody at ULA has finally waked up and smelled the coffee. The interesting question is who. Maybe it was board members who finally figured out this guy simply wasn’t cut out to lead a real business, just one that was a monopoly and all but an agency of the government. Those days are over.

    Or maybe it was Gass himself, looking to get some other poor sap into his old chair before those two RD-180’s that are supposed to arrive next week pull a no-show. Perhaps he got a tip from someone in Russia to this effect and didn’t want to be the guy who was so publicly stood up. If you jump before being pushed at least you get a bit more control over where you land.

    Gass’s passing isn’t the only interesting recent corporate event anent ULA. A half-dozen of its Alabama-based suppliers published a quite remarkable letter-cum-petition to the more brazenly anti-commercial-space-in-general-and-anti-SpaceX-in-particular clique within Alabama’s Congressional delegation calling for more competition in the space launch business. By inference, these outfits are nervous about the future of ULA as a buyer for their goods and also hint at getting pushback from non-Alabama-based NewSpace firms they’ve attempted to sell to.

    The ancien regime in aerospace is cracking up like ice in a Spring thaw.

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