ULA picks Aerojet Rocketdyne engine for Vulcan upper stage

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Capitalism in space: ULA has chosen an Aerojet Rocketdyne engine to power the upper stage of its next generation rocket Vulcan.

The company has not yet made a decision on the engine for the first stage, where Blue Origin’s BE-4 still appears favored over Aerojet Rocketdyne’s AR-1 engine. This decision on the upper stage could partly be a political move, giving Aerojet the upper stage in order to make it easier to give the lower stage to Blue Origin.

ULA is forced to play politics here because politicians are involved. A number of power members of Congress want Aerojet Rocketdyne to get the business, and ULA risks offending these legislators should it abandon that company entirely.



  • Richard M

    This would seem to make the selection of the BE-4 more likely. AR has now gotten a cut of the Vulcan pie, which should make losing out on the AR-1 more palatable to congressional stakeholders.

  • David

    As has been pointed out elsewhere, this isn’t the engine selection for ACES, this is just official contractual confirmation of what everyone knew, Vulcan is going to start off using a Centaur upper stage, which of course will use RL-10 engines. That said, they’re pretty clearly leaning towards sticking with the RL-10 for ACES, and this sets the ground for more dev work on the RL-10 to bring costs down.

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