ULA’s CEO explains why they are retiring Delta

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Tory Bruno, the CEO of ULA, explained in an op-ed today why his company is discontinuing its use of Boeing’s Delta family of rockets and focusing exclusively on Lockheed Martin’s Atlas 5 and its eventual replacement, the Vulcan Centaur.

Delta is an amazing rocket, but it’s costly to produce. Its burnt-orange foam insulation has to be applied by hand. Its production line is bigger and more complex than Atlas’s. And its components are pricier.

Bruno’s purpose with this op-ed is to convince Congress to leave his company alone while they develop the new Vulcan rocket. Congress keeps proposing outlawing use of the Atlas 5 with its Russian engines, and Bruno does not want that, at least not until the Vulcan is flying. He is also trying to reduce his costs by discontinuing Delta, which in turn would allow him to lower prices for his Atlas 5 and compete more effectively with SpaceX.

Though I understand Congress’s concerns, I do find it sad that in modern America a private businessman has to lobby Congress for the right to run his company as he sees fit.



  • mkent

    “Tory Bruno, the CEO of ULA, explained in an op-ed today why his company is discontinuing its use of Lockheed Martin’s Delta family of rockets and focusing exclusively on Boeing’s Atlas 5…”

    A couple of things…

    1) Delta is heritage Boeing, and Atlas is heritage Lockheed.

    2) I use the term “heritage” because both are all ULA now. The two launch companies have been completely merged with no clean way to split them up again. Engineering was combined into the former Lockheed facility in Colorado, and manufacturing was combined in the former Boeing facility in Alabama.

    And you’re right. It’s sad when the hardest thing a launch company does isn’t the rocket science.

  • Ugh. I switch the two companies all the time, not because I don’t know but because my brain takes a holiday. I have corrected the post.

  • Dick Eagleson

    He makes a good case. I carry no brief for the drift and stasis of ULA under the Mike Gass administration, but Bruno seems to be kicking some serious butt and taking a lot of names. He deserves a shot at completing his transition strategy without having his elbow jiggled constantly by the senior Senator from Arizona.

  • Wodun

    Bruno has really shaken things up. His performance is quite impressive.

  • geoffc

    If you believe Vulcan will actually launch in three years, there is this bridge I heard is available cheap! Might even be able to add tolls to it!

  • D K Rögnvald Williams

    The elegant Delta rocket is very reliable, which should also be factored into costs.

  • Edward

    D K Rögnvald Williams wrote: “The elegant Delta rocket is very reliable, which should also be factored into costs.”

    Reliability can be extremely important. The Air Force sometimes launches satellites that are very expensive and would not be replaced if they were lost. This means that additional cost is acceptable in order to get additional reliability.

    I believe that this is why the GPS III contract was the one opened up for bid. There are 32 planned GPS III satellites, so the loss of one would not be the end of the GPS system, and it could be replaced. For this system, lower cost is likely worth any added risk.

    Spending a little more for reliability is similar to paying for a fuse in a stereo. An additional 1% in cost can save the expensive stereo.

    For critical satellites, a cost-only consideration for launch vehicles could be penny wise but mission-ending stupid.

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