Exclusive: ULA hopes to launch more affordable rocket

Updated: Jul. 20, 2018 at 10:21 PM CDT
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(WAFF) - 49 years ago, US astronauts landed on the moon for the first time.

It was an extremely proud moment for all of us.

Now, there's a race to return, and once again, people and companies here are leading the way.

NASA and commercial aerospace partners like United Launch Alliance in Decatur are critical to the effort.

ULA's CEO Tory Bruno took us on an exclusive tour to show both you and me the rocket ULA plans to fly and to let us know when we might all learn of a critical decision for both the company and the Valley.

ULA in Decatur boasts the largest rocket assembly plant in North America.

Bruno and ULA Vice President Mark Peller tell me the company has spent two years re-configuring and reconstructing this factory to make room for one more rocket line - a rocket named "Vulcan" they want to see fly in just 24 months, joining two other rockets they already have flying

"We start flying Vulcan in a couple of years. The Delta 4H will continue out until the mid 2020s and the Atlas will continue to work until the early 2020s." said Bruno.

What will thrust Vulcan off the ground and toward the moon? That's still literally up in the air. The engines will be American made by either Aerojet Rocketdyne or Blue Origin.

For several years, ULA will be manufacturing three rockets under one roof. Eventually, Vulcan will replace them all because they say it will be smarter, cheaper, faster to manufacture and very flexible to fly.

Bruno says that ULA-Decatur employs 860 people but there are 5-10 additional jobs associated with these primary jobs to create a pretty big supply-chain footprint here in the Tennessee Valley. In fact, ULA is investing more than $115 million into Vulcan and the Alabama Department of Commerce says that helped put Morgan County on top in the state for aerospace- industry investments in 2017.

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