Press Release

NASA Begins Commercial Partnership With United Launch Alliance

By SpaceRef Editor
July 18, 2011
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NASA Begins Commercial Partnership With United Launch Alliance

DENVER — Through a new agreement, United Launch Alliance (ULA) will provide technical information to NASA about using the Atlas V rocket to launch astronauts into space. The announcement was made Monday at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

“I am truly excited about the addition of ULA to NASA’s Commercial Crew Development Program team,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. “Having ULA on board may speed the development of a commercial crew transportation system for the International Space Station, allowing NASA to concentrate its resources on exploring beyond low Earth orbit.”

NASA and ULA’s unfunded Space Act Agreement (SAA) requires ULA to provide data on the Atlas V, a flight-proven expendable launch vehicle used by NASA and the Department of Defense for critical space missions.

NASA will share its human spaceflight experience with ULA to advance crew transportation system capabilities and the draft human certification requirements. ULA will provide NASA feedback about those requirements, including providing input on the technical feasibility and cost effectiveness of NASA’s proposed certification approach.

“This unfunded SAA will look at the Atlas V to understand its design risks, its capabilities, how it can be used within the context of flying our NASA crew and maturing ULA’s designs for the Emergency Detection System and launch vehicle processing and launch architectures under a crewed configuration,” said Ed Mango, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program manager.

The majority of the work will be completed by the end of this year. As part of the agreement, NASA will:

— participate in milestone and technical review briefings and provide technical feedback on milestone completion
— assist in identification of risks and possible mitigation strategies

ULA will:

— continue to advance the Atlas V CTS concept, including design maturation and analyses
— conduct ULA program reviews as planned
— perform a Design Equivalency Review
— develop Hazard Analyses unique for human spaceflight
— develop a Probabilistic Risk Assessment
— document an Atlas V CTS certification baseline
— conduct Systems Requirements Review

“We believe this effort will demonstrate to NASA that our systems are fully compliant with NASA requirements for human spaceflight,” said George Sowers, ULA’s vice president of business development. “ULA looks forward to continued work with NASA to develop a U.S. commercial crew space transportation capability providing safe, reliable, and cost effective access to and return from low Earth orbit and the International Space Station.”

In 2010, NASA awarded $6.7 million to ULA to accompany its own $1.3 million investment to develop an Emergency Detection System prototype test bed. The EDS will monitor critical launch vehicle and spacecraft systems and issue status, warning and abort commands to crew during their mission to low Earth orbit. EDS is the sole significant element necessary for flight safety to meet the requirements to certify ULA’s launch vehicles for human spaceflight.

For information on the United Launch Alliance, visit:

For information about NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, visit:

SpaceRef staff editor.