United Launch Alliance (ULA) selected Orbital ATK [OA] over rival Aerojet Rocketdyne [AJRD] to provide brand new, first stage solid boosters on its future Atlas V rocket and next-generation Vulcan launch system.

ULA said Tuesday it entered into a long-term strategic partnership with Orbital ATK, effective 2019. Under this partnership, Orbital ATK is investing in the design, development and qualification of two new rocket motors with design similarities to each other that leverage the company’s solid motor technology. These motors will also be commercially available to support other customers.

A recent Atlas V launch for the MUOS-3 program from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. Photo: ULA.
A recent Atlas V launch for the MUOS-3 program from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. Photo: ULA.

Orbital ATK spokeswoman Jennifer Bowman said Tuesday Orbital ATK’s motors will provide additional thrust during takeoff and the initial phases of flight. Aerojet Rocketdyne currently provides the Atlas Solid Rocket Booster (SRB) on the Atlas V when additional thrust is necessary. The Atlas V 400 series launch vehicle integrates up to three SRBs and up to five SRBs on the Atlas V 500 series vehicle.

ULA spokeswoman Lyn Chassagne said Tuesday the company considered an Aerojet Rocketdyne offer for its future supplemental Atlas V and Vulcan boosters. Aerojet Rocketdyne did not return a request for comment by press time. Aerojet Rockedyne and Orbital ATK are the two domestic solid rocket motor developers.

Development of the new solid rocket boosters will commence immediately to support their introduction on ULA’s Atlas V vehicle in late 2018 and on Vulcan in mid-2019. Bowman said the new boosters will be part of Orbital ATK’s Graphic Epoxy Motor (GEM) family of motors. The new solid motor booster agreement expands the long-term relationship between ULA and Orbital ATK that already includes the supply of composite structures, nozzles, propellant tanks and booster separation motors for the current versions of Delta IV and Atlas V rockets. Aerojet Rocketdyne’s AJ-60 SRBs has flown on Atlas V rockets as strap on boosters.

Orbital ATK is also developing a fully-integrated third stage to launch NASA’s Solar Probe Plus mission on ULA’s Delta IV Heavy rocket in 2018. ULA is a joint venture of Lockheed Martin [LMT] and Boeing [BA].