A component issue that has prompted delays of two scheduled launches this summer aboard United Launch Alliance (ULA) rockets will not translate over to the joint venture’s forthcoming space vehicle, the CEO said July 19.

“This is a routine thing that happens” building up to a launch, said Tory Bruno during a Friday panel on space competition at the Aspen Security Forum in Aspen, Colorado.

A rendering of United Launch Alliance’s forthcoming Vulcan Centaur heavy-lift rocket, which is expected to be fielded in 2021. (Image: ULA)

Bruno noted that national security launch customers order the rocket 100 to 200 weeks in advance, and at that point, stakeholders set the launch date as well. ULA consistently works to launch within two weeks of the scheduled launch date, “the date we set 200 weeks before,” he emphasized.

A scheduled June launch of the Air Force’s latest Advanced EHF satellite aboard a ULA Atlas V rocket was delayed until late July, the service announced June 23 (Defense Daily, June 24). Less than one month later, ULA revealed the launch of the Air Force’s second GPS III satellite aboard a ULA Delta IV rocket would be delayed from July 25 to the end of August at the earliest (Defense Daily, July 17).

The delays were due to an anomaly discovered during component testing at a supplier’s facilities, ULA said at the time. ULA is a joint launch venture between Boeing [BA] and Lockheed Martin [LMT].

Bruno said Friday the alliance is working through a “sibling issue: when a part fails during routine testing after being fabricated, its previously manufactured twin parts are then considered suspect.

“Our process is to immediately declare all parts in the world that haven’t been flown yet” unfit for use, Bruno said. The part is pulled off to be examined and replaced as needed, he noted. “This is routine.”

He denied that the delays to the two summer launches will impact the development of ULA’s newest rocket, the Vulcan Centaur heavy-launch vehicle in development for the Air Force’s next generation of national security launches.  The Air Force awarded ULA a contract worth up to $967 million last October to help fund its development. The rocket is expected to be fielded by 2021.

ULA is planning to compete the Vulcan Centaur for the Air Force’s launch services procurement (LSP) procurement, for which requests for proposals are due Aug. 1. Launch companies including Space X, Blue Origin and Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems [NOC] are also expected to compete.

The contract is expected to be awarded in the second quarter of FY ’20, and would fund launch services in fiscal years 2020 to 2024 (Defense Daily, May 6).