ULA Stands Up Human Launch Services Group

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United Launch Alliance (ULA) is forming a new organization to focus exclusively on NASA human spaceflight programs, the Denver-based launch services provider announced April 9.

ULA’s Human Launch Services Organization will be based in Denver and headed by George Sowers, who previously led the company’s business development and advanced programs team.

“The new organization will draw upon the same processes and people that have made our launch vehicles the most reliable in the world,” Sowers said in a press release. “The intent is to leverage our successful heritage while providing our human spaceflight customers with an organization focused exclusively on their needs.”

Three of the four U.S. companies working on astronaut transport systems under NASA’s Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program plan to launch their spacecraft on ULA Atlas 5 rockets.

ULA received $6.7 million in 2010 under the first round of CCDev to build and demonstrate an emergency detection system needed for human-rating Atlas 5. The company has continued its Atlas 5 human-rating efforts under an unfunded Space Act Agreement it signed with NASA in 2011 after the agency passed over the funded proposal ULA submitted for a second-round CCDev award.

ULA is part of at least two teams — Boeing and Sierra Nevada — that submitted proposals in March for a third round that NASA is calling Commercial Crew integrated Capability, or CCiCap for short. The 21-month effort is expected to kick off this summer when NASA picks at least two teams to further develop their competing crew transportation systems with the aim of beginning flights to the international space station in 2017.