United Launch Alliance (ULA) is a joint venture company created by Lockheed Martin and Boeing in 2006. The joint venture consolidated the manufacture and deployment of US government space launch vehicles and launch services.
(The joint venture contract is available here “United Launch Alliance Joint Venture Master Agreement“.)
ULA manufactures and operates launch systems that are capable of delivering spacecraft into orbits around Earth and to other bodies in the solar system.
ULA have launched US Government and commercial payloads including: weather; telecommunications; navigation; earth observation; National Security Satellites (NSS); Boeing CST–100 spacecraft; scientific probes and orbiters.
Launch customers of the ULA include the United States Department of Defense, NASA, NOAA, Amazon, Boeing, Sierra Space and other organizations.
ULA provides launch services using two expendable launch systems, Delta IV Heavy and Atlas V. Both launch systems have achieved a 100% mission success rate over more than 15 years. Atlas V is rated for human spaceflight.
In the commercial market, ULA faces competition from SpaceX, IRSO, GK Launch Services/Roscosmos, MHI, Blue Origin, Northrop Grumman and Arianespace.
ULA competes for US Government NSS launches against SpaceX Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy. ULA has come under increasing US Government scrutiny because of their high launch cost compared to emerging competition such as SpaceX. To put it in context:
- US Government launch costs with ULA range from $164 million to more than $400 million per launch. The average launch cost being approximately $225 million.
- ULA’s lowest price for a launch is $109 million using an Atlas V 401, which is $42 million more than a Falcon 9 launch.
SpaceX is ULA’s primary competitor in all markets.
A new launch system, Vulcan, is being developed to replace both the Atlas V and the Delta IV Heavy. The Vulcan will provide more competitive capabilities, performance and launch prices. The first launch is scheduled for 2022.
ULA has a 30 year roadmap for their launch vehicles as illustrated below.
Additional information for the curious
ULA CIS Lunar Roadmap from 2015
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