From Atlas to Vulcan: 34 Years of Rocket Evolution in 1 Image

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Tory Bruno, the president and chief executive of United Launch Alliance, took to Twitter July 29 to discuss the heritage of his company’s new rocket, known as Vulcan, and unveil the infographic above.

“An effective way to manage risk is to incrementally add new technologies to an existing platform,” Bruno said in a follow-up tweet. “Transforming the rocket in steps.”

With a new infographic, Bruno showed how Vulcan’s heritage dates back to 1990 and draws from Lockheed Martin’s Atlas 1, 2 and 2A. The chart also depicts how ULA envisions Vulcan evolving through 2024, when it will take advantage of reusable rocket engines.

This evolution includes the addition of ACES, a new upper stage known as the Advanced Cryogenic Evolved Stage, as well as a new first stage featuring the methane-fueled BE-4 engine, which is being developed by Blue Origin of Kent, Washington. ULA is also working with Aerojet Rocketdyne on the AR-1 engine, in case the Blue Origin-funded BE-4 runs into developmental issues.

Bruno unveiled the first details about Vulcan in a series of interviews earlier this year and then announced additional details during a grand unveiling in April at the Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Vulcan is expected to pick up much of ULA’s medium-class launch market beginning around 2021, but the move means the end of ULA’s current workhorse rocket, the Atlas 5.