Delta IV Heavy Retiring and the Vulcan Replacement

ULA, a 50-50 joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, has four Delta 4-Heavy rockets left to launch in the next few years. All will launch spy satellites for the National Reconnaissance Office.

The retirement was announced in 2019 and the last Delta IV Heavy should fly in 2023. ULA’s Delta 4 Heavy’s price has reportedly fallen below $300 million.

United Launch Alliance’s first full-scale Vulcan booster with two Blue Origin BE-4 engines arrived at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in February, 2021.

The Vulcan Centaur rocket is ULA’s next-generation launch vehicle, and is destined to replace the company’s existing fleet of Atlas and Delta rockets. The new rocket can fly with zero, two, four, or six solid rocket boosters.

The pitch in 2015 for the Vulcan was to get launch costs below $100 million per launch. This is far behind SpaceX.

The development of Blue Origin’s BE-4 engines has been driving the schedule for the first Vulcan launch. Each BE-4 engine can generate about 550,000 pounds of thrust.

The Vulcan will have the first new ULA rocket in over a decade and it will have the first Blue Origin engines to fly anything to orbit. Blue Origin has launched suborbital.

Blue Origin now hopes to launch a partially reusable New Glenn rocket in late 2022. The New Glenn will have 50 tons of payload to low earth orbit and would be comparable to the SpaceX Falcon Heavy.

SOURCES Space flight now, Blue Origin, Wikipedia
Written By Brian Wang,

3 thoughts on “Delta IV Heavy Retiring and the Vulcan Replacement”

  1. This will be a Raptor-like BE-4, a fully tested second stage H, and a highly throttleable lunar lander small H engines. If I am not mistaken, Musk's need for C in orbit is a big deal! He could corner the market for quite a while if he got that with lunar mining, lunar Halo orbit refueling.

  2. It is good news for Blue Origin finally getting a run on the board. We need more competition in this field. And some tech developed since Star Trek first came out.

  3. I really do hope they manage it; Vulcan, that is. Even New Glenn, although I cannot help but imagine that this latter one will be a while yet to come, and perhaps Neutron from Rocket Labs is the closest competitor to provide us with an alternative to Starship — or at least to Falcon Heavy. However, having multiple *reusable* options is important; we do not want to have SpaceX corner the market for inability of anyone else do reusability.

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