Spaceflight Insider

Vulcan clears final review, could fly as early as 2021

An artist's depiction of the Vulcan rocket rising up from Earth. Image Credit: United Launch Alliance

An artist’s depiction of the Vulcan rocket rising up from Earth. Image Credit: United Launch Alliance

Colorado-based United Launch Alliance (ULA), along with the United States Air Force, has cleared the company’s new Vulcan rocket to continue its journey toward flight.

With the completion of the launch system’s critical design review (CDR) the new Vulcan Centaur design had been given the seal of approval.

“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,” said Tory Bruno, ULA’s president and CEO via a company-issued 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.”

The CDR was carried out over the course of about a week and encompassed all of the rocket’s systems to make sure they would work effectively when functioning as a single unit. 

“ULA’s Atlas and Delta rockets have served as the backbone for American space launch for decades and our next-generation rocket will advance this rich heritage,” Bruno said. “Vulcan Centaur will provide higher performance and greater affordability while continuing to deliver our unmatched reliability and precision.”

Vulcan will use heritage hardware, using many Atlas components including the rocket’s nosecone (payload fairing), avionics as well as the new GEM 63XL solid rocket boosters (produced by Northrop Grumman). The new rocket will utilize hardware used on the Delta IV rocket as well.

“Vulcan Centaur brings together the best of Atlas and Delta technology, and we are flying all of the major components that we can on Atlas V first to reduce the risk for our customers on the first flight,” Bruno 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

Nicholas Luis Braga Sebastião

I don’t get it. What’s the point of building a new rocket with old technology from other rockets? The description makes it sounds like a Frankenstein

If your business model pivots on building rocket parts, this is a good approach. Use once and then break it into pieces; smash it on the ground.

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