Proof that legalizing marijuana in Colorado is not necessarily always for the best…

As the 31st National Space Symposium comes to an end (congrats to my friend Elliot Holokauahi Pulham and the entire team there at the Space Foundation for another great event – sorry I missed it!), it is clear that there must have been not just a few refeers passed around by execs in the old school launch industry, judging from the ridiculous PR that is passing for news these days at places like CNN.


Apparently, United Launch Alliance has announced that their Vulcan rocket will be ready in 2019 (or 2023, depending on the configuration).  Because, as we know, the old school space industry is SO good at forecasting when something will actually become operational.  More on that later, though. At least they did some heavy duty work on the graphics for the thing, right?

Screenshot 2015-04-18 00.16.37

Psst… ULA..?
The 1990’s called – they want their clipart rocket graphics back. Nice gratuitous use of the Stars and Stripes, though.

The name I can only assume was picked to try to appeal to the Trek-fanboys amongst the aerospace world by using a crowdsourcing campaign for naming – otherwise known as, “We’re just too lazy to come up with a name, so let’s use the interwebs”… but was poorly chosen as Paul Allen has made them aware, something that you’d think ULA’s trademark lawyers might have noticed if they, too, weren’t possibly enjoying the legal herbs now available readily in Colorado..?  Their response was amusing:

ULA spokeswoman Jessica Rye said she is confident the company took all necessary steps to use the name.

“We have done our due diligence regarding the legal right to use the name Vulcan,” she said via e-mail. ” ULA is committed to taking every reasonable step to avoid any confusion with other entities using this name and we are confident we can do so.”

There’s a lot of confidence wrapped up in this particular program – in the vehicle’s reusability, in the new engines that Blue Origin will be providing (powered by natural gas – at least they didn’t say they were just going to strap a few Blue Rhino LP tanks on from the local gas station…), or in the helicopter crew that is supposed to catch the plummeting engine before it comes crashing back down to Earth, so that it can be refurbished and reused…

hqdefault“pass that doobie around again… man that is some SERIOUSLY strong stuff…. “

It’s not because they are trying to play hide the ball with Congress while SpaceX is breathing down their necks and (rightfully) contesting the latest multi-billion dollar national security payload awards when ULA is busy using RUSSIAN rocket engines (how’s that for putting all your national security eggs in the wrong basket?), because they don’t know how to build their own engines (unlike, you know, SpaceX) and were making claims that are laughable at multiple levels (the following is from an article featuring Michael Gass, who was head of ULA in 2014):

“The whole tenor of the campaign is to make perfectly clear that there is a lot at stake when it comes to successful space launches — literally lives are at stake,” Gass said. “We also want to make clear that there is a big distinction between a company that has a 100-year combined heritage in successfully delivering satellites into orbit and a company that is not yet even certified to conduct one [national security] launch.”

Lives at stake?  Elaborate.

100-year combined heritage? Leaving aside how stupid that sounds, because… you know, we didn’t have rockets 100 years ago, so you’re just trying to make it sound like a big number – what you really should be looking at is the experience of the people working AT the company as it pertains to building rockets, launching them successfully, etc.  Because i’m pretty sure that just because someone in the distant past at Boeing or Lockheed (or one of the other myriad companies that was absorbed by one of those two) may have worked on a rocket program like the Saturn V, it in no way means ULA today has a particular competency that competitors lack.  And, from what i understand, you couldn’t build any of those older rockets today if someone put a gun to your head – which is why you are relying on the Russians for rocket engines while actual INNOVATORS like the folks at SpaceX are building and flying their own hardware.

For the record, going to Blue Origin for an engine doesn’t make you any more innovative.  Just like buying an iPhone 6 doesn’t make you innovative.

“Whether it is scientific missions, medical advancements, national security or new economic opportunities for businesses, ULA’s new Vulcan rocket is a game-changer in terms of creating endless possibilities in space,” said Bruno (CEO of ULA). “It will open up new opportunities for the nation’s use of space.”

Wait… that sounds vaguely familiar.

Kind of like what was said back in 2000 about this:


Shhh… we don’t talk about that program anymore.  After all, it’s no coincidence that Voldemort and VentureStar both begin with V.

Or maybe i’m just being paranoid.  After all, they say that’s one of the dangers of the recently legalized herb.

Not that I would know.


12 thoughts on “Proof that legalizing marijuana in Colorado is not necessarily always for the best…

  1. David Livingston suggested to some of us that we read this post and perhaps make a response.

    My take is that this is exactly the sort of dialogue which we should stand against. It is filled with pejorative terms, numerous gratuitous cheap shots, unfairly dismissing the statements of others, attributing negative motives and character assassination, and with several fair criticisms mixed in. It is lacking of respect, ungenerous, and is completely lacking in the recognition of anything worthy of consideration by the other side. This is cynicism to be sure and I wish that my fellow space advocates would rather wash their hands of such cynicism and try to be fair, accurate, and gracious as we try to move forward towards making a better future.


  2. Doug, methinks thou doth protest too much.

    I will craft a longer post shortly to rebut your comments, which will end with a direct challenge to you, which i will state here as well:
    If you are so convinced that Big Aerospace, in the form of the latest Vulcan pronouncement from on high, is right and that I am wrong – put your money where your mouth is.

    I wager you $1000 that the Vulcan will NOT be operational as claimed by 2019.

    Are you willing to man up, or should i call you a waahmbulance?

    1. My post wasn’t about Big Aerospace nor about Vulcan. Rather it was about the incivility of your post. So no, I’m not going to be drawn in any sort of pissing match with you as I think that would only add to the problem.

      1. DS, this site is called Space CYNICS. Shubber is just throwing it right back into their faces, which they so truly deserve for stealing so many tax dollars.

    1. Doug should have known better than to expect more from your comments than from your post. Both are all sass and no substance.

  3. “Our basic Atlas 401-equivalent in Next Generation Launch System, which will sort of be comparable to a Falcon but with more capability, will be about $100 million per launch service,” ULA boss Tory Bruno said here:

    The Facts:

    Falcon 9

    Availability: Today

    Capability: 13151 kg to LEO

    Price: $62M


    Availability: 5-6 years from Today

    Capability: 9050 kg to LEO (Atlas 401- equivalent)

    Price: $100M

    Summary: For 60% MORE $$$ you will get 30% LESS capability on an UNPROVEN rocket available 5-6 years from now.


    Football coach at press conference week before “the Big Game”: We are planning to lose the game & that is OK because we are planning to lose BIG!!

    The ULA press conference Happy Face deceit was an insult to all thinking people.

  4. update:
    The initial funding for Vulcan development has only been approved for the short term. By April 2015, it became public that the United Launch Alliance board of directors—composed entirely of executives from Boeing and Lockheed Martin—is approving development funding only on a quarter-by-quarter basis. As of June 2015, funding remains limited to quarterly approvals and Lockheed Martin is actively working to use the funding limitation to get the US Congress to change existing law and allow extension of ULA ability to use the RD-180 on the Atlas V.

    Color me surprised.

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