A brief look at the United Launch Alliance Vulcan rocket.

United Launch Alliance
In development
0 to 6
5.4 m (18 ft)
Payload capacity (to GTO):
15,100 to 23,000 kgs (33,200 to 50,000 lbs)
In development


The Vulcan rocket is a heavy-lift launch vehicle being developed by United Launch Alliance. The aerospace titan began developing the vehicle in 2014 utilising a public-private partnership with the US government to fund the project. Although the ULA board has committed to short-term funding for the Vulcan, the lack of a long-term private funding commitment could derail the development of the vehicle.

Development of the Vulcan rocket was the result of cost competition from SpaceX and concerns with the supply of the RD-180 engines that power the Atlas V. The new vehicle was first announced as the company’s “next generation launch system” in 2014. A year later in April 2015, ULA CEO Tony Bruno revealed the two-stage-to-orbit Vulcan design at the 31st Space Symposium.

The Vulcan’s Centaur first stage will be powered by Blue Origin’s BE-4 engine. With the addition of up to 6 strap-on solid-fuel boosters, the rocket will feature up to 3.8 million pounds of thrust at launch. The Vulcan’s Centaur upper stage will be powered by an upgraded version of the RL10B-2 engine that powers the Delta IV upper stage.

The maiden launch of the Vulcan launch vehicle had initially been scheduled for 2019. Delays in the development of the rocket have, however, pushed the date to mid-2020 with many sceptical ULA will be able to meet the revised deadline.