The United Launch Alliance (ULA) has chosen the RL10 engine produced by Aerojet Rocketdyne to power the upper stage of the company’s next generation Vulcan rocket. ULA released a statement on May 11, and they revealed that they would use the RL10C-X variant of the RL10 engine to power the new Vulcan rockets.
Aerojet Rocketdyne already produces different variants of the RL10 engine for ULA’s Delta and Atlas rockets’ upper stages. In a statement, the president and Chief Executive of ULA said that they could not be any happier for selecting a reliable engine to power the upper stage of the Vulcan rocket.
Although the company did not reveal the details of their agreement, they announced that the deal would span over the next decade. The new version of the engine that ULA will use in its Vulcan rocket will feature addictive manufacturing of engine components.
Addictive manufacturing will improve the quality of the engines whiles reducing the cost of production. Although ULA did not reveal the other competing company for the contract to build the engine for the upper stage of the Vulcan, Blue Origin is widely believed to be the other leading competitor. The company offered their BE-3U engine.
The contract signed with ULA is the second contract that Aerojet has won in the last couple of months. Just last month, Orbital ATK also announced that it would use RL10 to power the upper stage of its OmegA rocket. In the case of Orbital ATK as well, Orbital ATK considered Blue Origin’s BE-3U before deciding to go with Aerojet’s RL10.
Blue Origin currently powers New Shepherd’s suborbital vehicle. There is still chance for Blue Origin to grab a contract with ULA since the company is not done selecting engines for the Vulcan rocket. The company is yet to choose an engine for the first stage of the rocket.
In this case, Blue Origin and Aerojet are still in the competition. Blue Origin is presenting its BE-4 engine against Aerojet’s AR1 engine. ULA is yet to announce a schedule to select an engine for the first stage of the next generation of the Vulcan rockets.
Earlier, ULA announced that it was not under any pressure to choose an engine for the first stage of the Vulcan rockets. The company also declined to give an update on the competition between Blue Origin and Orbital ATK. However, ULA indicated that they preferred the BE-4 engine but would rather wait for Blue Origin to complete a series of tests before they conclude.