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Alabama’s ULA continues factory upgrades, achieves ‘significant milestone’ for next national security rocket

United Launch Alliance (ULA) announced it had concluded the final review of the design for the company’s new Vulcan Centaur rocket. The Vulcan Centaur is ULA’s next-generation rocket for use on national security space missions and is manufactured in Decatur, Alabama.

Tory Bruno, ULA president and CEO, explained the importance of this event to the progress of the program.

“This is a tremendous accomplishment for the ULA team and a significant milestone in the development of a rocket – signaling the completion of the design phase and start of formal qualification,” Bruno remarked in a company release. “Vulcan Centaur is purpose built to meet all of the requirements of our nation’s space launch needs and its flight-proven design will transform the future of space launch and advance America’s superiority in space.”

As part of the certification process with the U.S. Air Force, Air Force representatives are included as part of the design review.

The Air Force recently announced that it would proceed with its national security space launch program, a program in which ULA and numerous Alabama-based suppliers will participate.

In the meantime, ULA and its partners continue to invest heavily in the company’s plant in Decatur, the largest rocket factory in the western hemisphere.

ULA will be installing a total of six large robotic welders to support the upgraded Centaur upper stage.

The company says Vulcan Centaur will provide higher performance and greater affordability, and part of that is through the use of new manufacturing technologies that were not available during the production of earlier generations of rockets.

The increased use of lasers and robotics and adding more in-line non-destructive testing will aid in streamlining the process.

Bruno shared on social media a time-lapsed video of one of the new state-of-the-art weld stations going in at the Decatur plant.


The new welders offer advanced material joining techniques to produce higher strength and higher quality products and reduced cycle time to produce the hardware, providing greater schedule flexibility to fulfill the needs of its launch customers.

The new Centaur upper stage will first fly on Vulcan in 2021.

Tim Howe is an owner and editor of Yellowhammer News

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