Vulcan notes two new customers when ULA begins modernizing the plant in preparation for the transition to Vulcan production.
DECATUR, Ala. Alliance Spreading Factory in early September and will make the short trip through the parking lot to a test facility operated by a ULA Dynetics subcontractor.
The structural amplifier will be attached to electronic actuators that will simulate loads above those expected in flight. The test results – expected to continue next year – will be used to validate the integrity of the design and mark a key step as ULA prepares to build the amplifier that will power the volcano in its first flight scheduled for 2021.  Vulcan is a new class of space rockets that ULA builds at the factory that Boeing opened in 1
A SpaceNews reporter from 1945 recently toured the 1.6 million square foot facility, where about 850 employees and contractors cut, weld and assemble tanks, main and top amps. About 28 lower and upper stages today are in various production phases for seven Atlas 5 missions and one Delta 4. Heavy.
In parallel, robotic assembly lines and modernization of production tools are being introduced at the factory to prepare for the transition to Vulcan production. ULA finances these improvements with funds released in October 2018 by the Air Force under the Service Launch Agreement.
Five major components of the Volcano are already in various stages of assembly and will be completed in the next 12 months, Mark Peller, ULA
"We have just completed the Boosters article, we have two Centaur test articles, and booster and top flight for the first flight, "Peller said. "Early next year, we will begin construction of the second article and move the Decatur plant to the recurring production of the Vulcan rocket."
Before the first upper flight stage begins production, ULA will build two test items from the upper stage, One will be tested for structural integrity. The other will be a fluid test to test the propulsion systems. Both upstream tests will be performed at the Marshall Space Flight Center at NASA's near Huntsville in the first half of 2020.
As parts of Vulcan's new hardware come together at Decatur, the plan is for most components to fly in the Atlas or Delta Rocket some time before the volcano's debut in 2021. The exception is the main engine. Blue Origin BE-4 will be tested on the ground before the first Vulcan launch. The BE-4 has been in development since 2011 and is the first rocket engine to run on liquid oxygen and liquid methane.
The BE-4 will not fly until the volcano is flying, but ULA does not consider it a risk to the program, – Peller said. "This is a new development and requires a lot of focus. That's why it was the first thing ever launched under the Vulcan program. Blue Origin is still testing the engine at its West Texas facility, Peller noted. After development is complete, Blue Origin will build two engines for further testing before delivering two ULAs to integrate with the amplifier at the Decatur plant.
"There will be more rocket testing before the first flight," Peller said. The final step in preparing for the first launch will be the readiness for flight on board with both engines – the so-called. Green movement.
Volcano registers customers
ULA has delivered more than 130 satellites to orbit, and its future now depends on Centaur Volcano, which won one of two slots in the Phase 2 launch competition National Security for launching services. ULA will offer Vulcan as a single vehicle for all missions currently performed by Atlas and Delta, in addition to the more complex flights required by the Air Force for the Phase 2 race. With Vulcan, ULA has a low margin of error since competitors SpaceX, Blue Origin and Northrop Grumman are moving to challenge ULA's dominance in the national security launch market.
When designing the Vulcan, ULA's primary goal was to develop an internal-production vehicle to replace the Atlas 5, since the Air Force would not be able to fly satellites on the Russian Atlas engine after 2022. The company also seeks to reduce the risk of new design by incorporating Atlas and Delta components.  ULA Executive Director Tori Bruno insists that the vehicle is "purpose-built" for national security missions. But the company also positions Vulcan to compete for NASA and commercial work.
The volcano's inaugural mission in 2021 will be to fly the astrobotic lunar moon to the moon, the company announced. the main propulsion system for his moongrass Pegr. An astrobotics was chosen by NASA to deliver up to 14 payloads to the lunar surface. The launch of the moon lander will serve as the first of two certification fields required for the certification process for the United States Air Force. The second flight will be a Sierra Nevada Dream Chaser spacecraft mission to the International Space Station at the end of 2021.
ULA has not yet released its estimated Vulcan prices. Although Atlas and Delta command much higher prices than any other car today, ULA believes the Vulcan will be more competitive. "It will cost significantly less than the Atlas while offering the same reliability," Peller said. The ULA will be able to charge less by consolidating the cost of two lines of vehicles under one program, he said. "This rocket can do what the entire Atlas and Delta family can do.
As a single-core vehicle, the Vulcan's heavy configuration will not require connecting three boosters together like a Delta. "The only change we make to adapt performance to a specific mission is how many solid rocket motors we attach," Peller said. The vehicle can handle up to six Northrop Grumman solid state amplifiers. "It's really a breakthrough," he said. "Ability to achieve heavy lifting from one core of the vehicle and adjust the number of solids to meet the full range of missions."
Another change made in heavy missions is the length of the belt with diameter of 5.4 meters. One version is 51 feet long and 70 feet longer. Switzerland-based RUAG USA produces 5.4 meters of autoclave composite fairing at a facility adjacent to ULA. The company moved the entire production of composite structures it builds for Atlas and Vulcan to Decatur.
"The completion of the first 5.4-meter Atlas fairing is nearing completion," Peller said. RUAG is expected to introduce the first fairing in early 2020. "They have prototyped different volcanic composite structures and are now moving forward to create volcano flight hardware."