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Vulcan: New ULA Rocket

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Let's see if it can live up to its namesake, Vulkan;







Edit: added more stuff about ULA rocket;




Looks like they're planning on having reusability, although apparently not of the whole first stage like on Falcon 9.  Also, midair recovery, which is an interesting choice.

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ED: OK, some thoughts.

First, methane first stage. Radical. Also, putting the Blue Origin smarties to work, I like that.

Second, Vulcan was certainly the best name out of the candidates, so I'm glad they went with it as opposed to "Eagle" or "Freedom". However, "Vulcan" is such an awesome name for a rocket that everyone else thinks so too, which is why there's Vulcan Aerospace, the Vulkan, and the Vulcain engine. Naturally, I'm sure ULA will back out of the "Vulcan" name because Paul Allen will threaten to take some of their delicious monies, and we'll probably end up with a space launch vehicle called either "Apple Pie" or an alphanumerical.

Third, they're suggesting it can carry CST-100. That would be a huge leap, as currently there are no man-rated rockets in that class. It looks like it promises considerably better payload than either Falcon or Atlas V was able to deliver, based on the fairings and size of the first stage. 20 tonnes to orbit would be fantastic, but maybe I'm overestimating due to the xbawks heug methane first stage. And of course, that neatly accommodates the heavier and funnier-orbiting spy satellites. Unlike SpaceX, ULA must have a mind on being the primary/only contractor for military spacelaunch.

Fourth, looks like they are re-using existing solid rockets. That's fine, those rockets work well. However, it also looks like the rocket is set up for parallel homologous stages, as in that configuration the nozzles would be plenty far apart to avoid synergistic meltage. If that's the case, and if payload really is in the 20 tonne range for the heavier SRB-equipped configs, then a tripe-core variant could be a 40-tonne to orbit launcher. That would really be something, and actually could give SLS a run for its money, especially if the 110-130 tonne variants never materialize.

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I don't see what the problem would be with calling it Atlas VI or Delta VI, it's not as though the Atlas V shares much with the original Atlas ICBM (likewise for Thor and Delta IV). Actually, now that I think about it, they probably want to make sure everyone knows this is a ~new rocket~, and calling it another Delta or Atlas doesn't really evoke that in the public's mind.


According to various resources I've found, the adiabatic flame temp for methane is a couple percent lower than kerosene and similar hydrocarbons (the exact numbers are going to depend on ambient pressure, mixture ratios, and the like), so they'll probably be taking a bit of an ISP hit on the first stage. Shouldn't hurt them too much, though.

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