US Air Force Secretary, Frank Kendall, Meets with Blue Origin & ULA’s Representatives

3rd Sep 2021
US Air Force Secretary, Frank Kendall, Meets with Blue Origin & ULA’s Representatives

On 24th August, Air Force Secretary, Frank Kendall, met with the representatives of Blue Origin and United Launch Alliance to discuss Vulcan Centaur – a launch technology in joint development of these companies. Even though the tech is late, the briefing inspires some hope as to its possible implementation.

Kendall on the briefing & Blue Origin Development Delays

During a news conference at the 36th Space Symposium, Kendall mentioned meeting with Blue Origin and ULA representatives to get an update on their latest developments. The ULA is responsible for providing the launch vehicle, while Blue Origin will need to design BE-4 engines to power it. At the moment, BE-4 is years behind schedule, but Kendall and the US Air Force do not lose hope. The sentiment is shared by ULA’s CEO, Tory Bruno, who is confident that engines will be ready by the end of the year.

As a reminder, the Vulcan programme was initiated by the Air Force in 2020, following the 2016 Congress Law that prohibits the use of Russian RD-180 engines.

US Air Force & Kendall’s Backup Plan

One of the reasons why the Air Force is still optimistic about Vulcan implementation is that Blue Origin and ULA are not the only contractors working on upcoming US satellite launches. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Heavy also made the list of launch providers to deploy US military satellites in the next five years. So, while Kendall remains positively optimistic about ULA and Blue Origin’s odds of seeing their tech through, the second launch provider – and an established one like SpaceX – can help ensure that the military satellites will be deployed in any case.

At the same time, Kendall says that Blue Origin and ULA will probably get there, even though BE-4 engines are way behind their estimated manufacturing schedule.

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