ULA Urged to Increase Launch Pace for National Security Satellites

ULA Urged to Increase Launch Pace for National Security Satellites

Viktoriya Ivanova
2 min read

United Launch Alliance Urged to Boost Satellite Launch Pace for National Security

The United Launch Alliance (ULA), a partnership between Lockheed Martin and Boeing, is under pressure to increase its rate of launches for national security satellites. The Air Force's top acquisition official, Frank Calvelli, has advocated for ULA to accelerate to about two launches per month in order to meet the rising demand. ULA's current average of 6-7 launches per year falls short compared to SpaceX's 96 government and commercial flights in 2023. The success of ULA's new Vulcan rocket's second flight, powered by Blue Origin's BE-4 engine, is vital for scaling up operations. However, the production capacity of Blue Origin needs to expand to meet this demand. Failure to complete the second certification flight could result in delays for critical national security payloads, including a new GPS satellite. ULA is expected to be prepared for its next launch by mid-year, with a later date requested for the commercial flight by the customer. The Air Force's fiscal 2025 plan entails $10.4 billion allocated for 38 launches through fiscal 2029.

Key Takeaways

  • ULA is urged to increase launch pace to meet the Air Force's demand for national security satellites.
  • ULA's current launch average falls short when compared to competitors like SpaceX.


The urgency from the Air Force highlights the increasing demand for national security satellites and ULA's struggle to keep up with competitors like SpaceX. The success of ULA's Vulcan rocket's second flight, powered by Blue Origin's BE-4 engine, is crucial for ULA to scale up. However, Blue Origin's ability to ramp up BE-4 production is a potential bottleneck that could lead to delays for critical national security payloads. This development may have consequences for Lockheed Martin and Boeing, who are part of the ULA joint venture. In the long term, the accelerated launch pace may become the new norm, reshaping the satellite launch industry. The US government's $10.4 billion investment in 38 launches through 2029 reflects this trend.

Did You Know?

  • Joint Venture (JV): A business arrangement in which two or more parties pool their resources to accomplish a specific task. In this case, Lockheed Martin and Boeing formed a JV called United Launch Alliance (ULA) to provide space launch services.
  • Space launch pace: Refers to the frequency at which a space launch company is able to conduct launches. The Air Force's top acquisition official, Frank Calvelli, is urging ULA to increase its launch pace to two launches per month to meet growing demand.
  • BE-4 engine: A liquid oxygen and liquefied natural gas rocket engine developed by Blue Origin, which is a key component of ULA's new Vulcan rocket. However, Blue Origin needs to scale its production to ensure the success of ULA's next flight.

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