ULA Completes Critical Design Review For Human Rating Atlas V

United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket has completed its fifth milestone on the road to powering astronauts to orbit as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Development program. Photo Credit: Alan Walters / awaltersphoto.com

United Launch Alliance (ULA) is one step closer to seeing their Atlas V rocket send astronauts to orbit. ULA is one of the competitors in NASA’s Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program phase 2. ULA has completed a critical design review of the Atlas V held to determine if the rocket is suitable to transport astronauts to low-Earth-orbit (LEO). 

The Atlas V launch vehicle has been tapped by Blue Origin, Boeing and Sierra Nevada Corporation to power their various spacecraft to orbit. Photo Credit: Alan Walters / awaltersphoto.com

The Atlas V has been tapped by both established and NewSpace companies to power their proposed spacecraft to orbit. The Atlas V has been selected to launch Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Dream Chaser space plane, Boeing’s CST-100 space taxi and Blue Origin’s Space Vehicle.

ULA’s Engineering Review Board detailed all of the steps that it has completed thus far in terms of seeing the Atlas V power crews to orbit. NASA provided technical consultation during the review. The Atlas V is the latest iteration of the rocket that sent John Glenn to orbit. Given that initial versions of this rocket ferried astronauts to orbit.

This is the fifth milestone that ULA has successfully completed under an unfunded Space Act Agreement (SAA) that ULA has signed with NASA. The review has determined that the Atlas V can comply with the strict requirements for crewed flight. This is part of a larger effort to develop a safe and cost effective Crew Transportation System (CTS).

Although ULA conducted the System Requirements Review (SRR) and Systems Design Review (SDR) itself, it was conducted under the watchful eyes of NASA. The review team was comprised of ULA design and development engineers, NASA technical experts as well as representatives from the firm’s that want to utilize the Atlas V to launch their spacecraft. The SRR/SDR was conducted across various disciplines with the purpose of ensuring that the designs are capable of providing launch services for NASA’s commercial human space flight efforts.

“The SRR/SDR were the result of an extensive effort with NASA and our commercial spacecraft partners during which we cooperatively established the baseline from which we will proceed into the detailed design and development phase of NASA’s Crew Transportation System,” said Dr. George Sowers, ULA’s vice president for Human Launch Services. “We continue to receive valuable insight from NASA’s human spaceflight experts as we move forward towards the certification of Atlas V for human spaceflight.”

All of NASA’s commercial partners continue to meet the milestones that have been laid out before them under the Space Act Agreements that they have entered into with the space agency. Photo Credit: Alan Walters / awaltersphoto.com

Unlike other potential launchers, the Atlas V has an extensive track record supporting it. Thirty-one successful missions over the course of a decade have proven the Atlas V to be a reliable launch platform. The missions that the Atlas V have been used on range from NASA’s planetary probes and rovers to classified payloads for the National Reconnaissance Office.

“Our partnership with ULA during this round of development has really been focused on understanding the co-redesign of the launch vehicle,” said NASA’s Commercial Crew Program Manager Ed Mango said. “In these reviews we were able to see how ULA plans to modify the vehicle for human spaceflight.”

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