COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — United Launch Alliance’s next rocket will be named Vulcan. The name was selected from an online vote that ULA said received more than a million ballots.
“As the company currently responsible for more than 70 percent of the nation’s space launches, it is only fitting that America got to name the country’s rocket of the future,” Tory Bruno, ULA’s president and chief executive, said April 13 during a press conference coinciding with the start of the 31st Space Symposium.
ULA employees from across the United States submitted more than 400 names. ULA opened voting on the vehicle, currently known as the Next Generation Launch System, March 23 and received more than one million votes online through April 6.
“I was astonished at what happened,” Bruno said of the number of votes.
The three finalists were apparent before the press conference started. Blue baseball caps embroidered with the names Vulcan, Zeus and Galaxy One made clear that Eagle and Freedom hadn’t made the cut.
ULA is developing the Vulcan rocket to replace the Atlas 5 and the Delta 4 launch vehicles around the end of the decade.
ULA is working with Blue Origin, Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos’ secretive space company, on the methane-fueled BE-4 engine to replace the reliable-but-Russian RD-180 engines that have successfully powered 52 Atlas 5 launches for the U.S. government and a small handful of commercial customers since 2002. Congress, however, has enacted a ban on using RD-180 engines for national security missions that is set to take effect in 2019 barring legislative relief.