Press Release

United Launch Alliance Completes Critical Milestones Toward Certifying Atlas V for Human Spaceflight

By SpaceRef Editor
February 2, 2012
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United Launch Alliance Completes Critical Milestones Toward Certifying Atlas V for Human Spaceflight

United Launch Alliance (ULA) today announced the completion of two key milestones leading toward the certification of the Atlas V launch vehicle for human spaceflight.

ULA has successfully completed the third and fourth milestones of its Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) Unfunded Space Act Agreement (SAA). In December, ULA conducted a series of detailed reviews that reflected the culmination of efforts involving technical experts and representatives from NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP).

A Tailored System Requirements Review (TSRR) was successfully conducted which summarized months of work with ULA and NASA. The team reviewed the detailed evidence that demonstrates how the existing, flight-proven Atlas V meets the intent of NASA’s Human Spaceflight Certification requirements. The team paid particular emphasis to requirements traceability, verification and certification planning. Because Atlas V is already certified to fly the nation’s most complex exploration and national security missions, ULA was able to provide a wealth of detailed system and sub-system analysis, qualification, certification, and flight data resulting from 28 successful missions.

“The TSRR was the result of an extensive effort with NASA and our commercial spacecraft partners during which we cooperatively reviewed the details of Atlas V design, analyses and operations,” said George Sowers, ULA’s vice president of business development and advanced programs. “This was the first time that we were able to share detailed Atlas V design and flight data with NASA Human Spaceflight experts.”

A Probabilistic Safety Analysis (PSA) Review also was conducted to evaluate safety-critical launch vehicle systems. This included the details of existing Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA) data, Probabilistic Risk Assessment (PRA) results, explosion modeling analyses, system hazard analyses and fault coverage assessments. The PSA leveraged similar data developed in support of Atlas V launches of critical NASA missions including Pluto New Horizons, Juno and the Mars Science Laboratory.

“The PSA provided a firm foundation to show how the demonstrated reliability of the Atlas V offers significant benefits towards meeting NASA’s stringent crew safety requirements,” Sowers said. “We received invaluable insight from the NASA’s Commercial Crew Program while allowing us to provide the details behind the reliability and robustness of the Atlas V design.”

“ULA gave us an invaluable opportunity to get to know its Atlas V systems and subsystems through our unfunded partnership,” said Commercial Crew Program Manager Ed Mango. “And we are happy to share our knowledge and expectations to keeping our crews safe.”

“With the recent launch of the Mars Science Laboratory for NASA, Atlas V once again demonstrated the highest confidence, lowest risk solution for human spaceflight,” Sowers added.

Three of the four current NASA CCDev partners providing commercial crew integrated services have selected Atlas V as their launch vehicle.

“The flight-proven and NASA-certified Atlas V eliminates all risk of launch vehicle development and early flight failures inherent in new, unproven designs,” Sowers said.

As NASA moves forward with the Commercial Crew development Program, ULA will offer human-certified Atlas launch services to meet the needs for the crew transportation system providers.

“The Commercial Crew Development Program is on a path to create a robust commercial crew transportation capability to low-Earth orbit (LEO). ULA looks forward to continued work with our spacecraft customers and NASA to develop an early U.S. crew space transportation capability providing safe, reliable, and cost-effective access to LEO and the International Space Station,” Sowers said.

ULA program management, engineering, test and mission support functions are headquartered in Denver, Colo. Manufacturing, assembly and integration operations are located at Decatur, Ala., and Harlingen, Texas. Launch operations are located at Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla., and Vandenberg AFB, Calif.

For more information on ULA, visit the ULA Web site at, or call the ULA Launch Hotline at 1-877-ULA-4321 (852-4321).

SpaceRef staff editor.