- NASA Watch
- January 25, 2023
GAO: Blue Origin Engine Problems Threaten ULA Vulcan Progress
GAO: Weapon Systems Annual Assessment Updated Program Oversight Approach Needed – Excerpt: National Security Space Launch (NSSL)
Keith’s note: The ULA Vulcan program has contracted with Blue Origin to provide its BE-4 rocket engine. This BE-4 engine is not referred to by name in this report, but it is what is referred to in this report.
“A U.S. produced rocket engine under development for ULA’s Vulcan launch vehicle is experiencing technical challenges related to the igniter and booster capabilities required and may not be qualified in time to support first launches beginning in 2021.
A joint program office and ULA team is tracking these challenges, and NSSL officials told us Vulcan remains on track to support first launches and certification in 2021. However, if ULA cannot complete engine qualification before the 2021 flight certification, the program might continue to rely on ULA’s Atlas V–which uses engines manufactured in the Russian Federation–to support ULA’s 2022 launches, despite a nearly $2.9 billion investment in new launch system development. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy vehicles are certified to conduct national security launches. The Falcon Heavy is undergoing some modifications to fully meet launch requirements and is on track to support its first mission in May 2021.”