Spaceflight Insider

Report: ULA to layoff Vandenberg staff, potentially change name

Atlas-V / NROL-79 launch

A National Reconnaissance Office payload on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket launches from Space Launch Complex-3, March 1, 2017, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. Photo & Caption Credit: Senior Airman Ian Dudley / U.S. Air Force

A recent report on Space News 360 noted that, according to an inside source, layoffs are imminent for United Launch Alliance (ULA). While news about a workforce reduction for the company is not new (ULA stated as much in 2016), the report went on to note that the launch provider was considering changing its name.

According to the report, the downsizing would come from most, if not all, of ULA’s staff at Vandenberg Air Force Base over the next few months. Future launches would see East Coast launch teams travel to Vandenberg to process the rockets and payload as well as control the launch.

“United Launch Alliance continues to transform our company to provide cost-effective solutions for our customers while we maintain our focus on mission success,” ULA spokesperson Jessica Rye told SpaceFlight Insider. “As we announced last year, ULA would have two reductions in force, one in 2016, which was completed, and one in 2017 to accomplish our business goals.”

Rye said the company hopes to accomplish the majority of the 2017 reductions through voluntary layoffs.

“We appreciate all of our team members’ contributions and understand the difficulty and stress that workforce reductions place on the impacted employees and their families,” Rye said.

ULA is a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Boeing. It was formed in December 2006 to combine teams to launch its three launch vehicles: Delta II, Delta IV, and Atlas V.

Since 2014, ULA has undergone a number of corporate-wide changes. In August of that year, Michael Gass, ULA’s CEO since the company’s founding, was replaced by Tory Bruno.

Then, in October 2014, ULA announced a major restructuring process and workforce reduction to decrease launch costs by half. A month later, Bruno said at an event that he wanted to make the company more agile and establish new business models to adapt to the new space environment, likely referring to competition from SpaceX.

Over the last few years, the company has started to design a replacement rocket for the Atlas V called the Vulcan rocket, announced that it will be phasing out the Delta line of boosters, and will be working to make a fully reusable upper stage that can be used as a refuelable “truck” in space.

Additionally, ULA has streamlined its rocket purchasing process by starting a program called “RapidLaunch”, which allows customers to purchase a rocket within three months of its target launch date. According to Bruno, that, combined with the new “Rocket Builder” website, continues the company’s transformation to make space more affordable and accessible.

In Space News 360′s March 2 report, its inside source also mentioned that the Colorado-based company was considering changing its name. ULA’s spokesperson did not disclose whether that was the case, however.

“As with most companies, ULA continually evaluates its branding strategy and adjusts according to the market,” Rye said.



Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology,, The Mars Society and Universe Today.

Reader Comments

ULA seems to be acting out of some desperation. They have never had to compete in the non-governmental commercial market, and were always able to set terms and conditions ahead of any launch of government or military spacecraft. More importantly , they set the price. Their price was the price, plus that $ 1 billion per year retainer arrangement. Now ULA has to fight a 2-front war….dwindling and changing government space opportunities, and the rise of several private companies , one of which is establishing itself in military space. The new companies have the price point advantage and are already ” agile”. They are also well behind the technology curve and reusability. Among other things.
When I look at today’s ULA and Tony Bruno, I see a company running scared…


ULA Still holds the advantage in Mission Assurance, having never lost a spacecraft to a catastrophic failure. SpaceX lost 2 last year alone. I hope all these cuts don’t jeopardize mission success

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