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?
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…
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.