DECATUR, Ala., Nov. 28, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- NASA Administrator Charles Bolden today discussed the state of the nation's space agency, including science and human exploration, during his visit to the United Launch Alliance (ULA) production facility in Decatur, Ala., where ULA manufactures both Atlas and Delta launch vehicles.
Joined by ULA President and CEO Michael Gass, Bolden viewed hardware being prepared for future NASA missions and hosted a town hall meeting with ULA's Alabama employees where he thanked them for their efforts in building the highly reliable Atlas and Delta rockets. ULA launches critical space capabilities for the Department of Defense, NASA, the National Reconnaissance Office and other commercial customers.
Bolden submitted this blog post about his visit to ULA. Read the Administrator's blog post here: http://blogs.nasa.gov/cm/blog/bolden/posts/post_1354126709864.html.
Last year was a busy year for the NASA science community, and ULA was a critical team player enabling the agency to meet an aggressive launch campaign, including the Aquarius, Juno, Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) and NPOESS Preparatory Project (NPP) missions. The year was capped with the launch of the tremendously successful Mars Science Laboratory.
The Atlas and Delta heritage launch vehicles have supported NASA's presence in space for more than 50 years, including the manned Mercury flights and America's early interplanetary missions. ULA's partnership with NASA continues to bear fruit, including the launch of the twin Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP) earlier this year. RBSP was the 17th NASA mission launched on a ULA rocket. ULA will launch NASA's Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS)-K satellite relay system,Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM) imagery satellite, and Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) missions in 2013.
"The capabilities NASA builds are precision scientific instruments that would take several years to re-create if a launch failed. ULA has successfully delivered each and every time," ULA's Gass said.
ULA supports the space launch needs for many of NASA's top priorities, including flight test of the Orion spacecraft, development of the upper stage for the Space Launch System (SLS), launch services support of two Commercial Crew Program teams (Boeing and Sierra Nevada) and launch of several science exploration missions. Bolden today was able to see rocket hardware for three upcoming NASA science missions, including TDRS-L, MAVEN and the Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO)-2 carbon-counting science mission.
Bolden also viewed the beginnings of the Exploration Flight Test (EFT) rocket, which will serve as the test launch vehicle for the Orion crew capsule. The EFT launch will provide an opportunity to gain real flight experience with the Orion spacecraft.
"We know the future is promising for the NASA and ULA partnership with many important missions on the horizon, including our Commercial Crew Program," said Gass. "ULA's support of NASA's human exploration efforts will ensure that the United States has safe, reliable means of delivering crew to the space station."
ULA's support of SLS also is promising. Working with The Boeing Company, ULA is providing the second stage for SLS, which is targeting 2017 to send humans beyond Earth orbit for the first time since 1972.
ULA, headquartered in Colorado, conducts major fabrication, assembly and integration operations at the 1.6 million square foot state-of-the-art facility in Decatur. Atlas V mechanical structures, payload fairing and adapter fabrication and assembly take place in Harlingen, Texas. ULA rockets are launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., and Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.
A joint venture of Lockheed Martin and The Boeing Co., ULA was created to provide affordable and reliable launch services for the U.S. government. Backed by more than 100 years of combined Atlas and Delta experience, ULA has delivered a consistent launch tempo and 100 percent mission success in its first five years of operations. ULA has met and exceeded its commitments to the U.S. government in annual savings due in part to consolidation of its production facilities, exceeding the original two-to-one savings goal. Critical to that savings is consolidating from five production sites to two, including moving Atlas tank fabrication, Atlas and Centaur upper stage final rocket assembly, and Centaur tank fabrication from Denver and San Diego to Decatur. Additionally, Atlas tank fabrication was moved from Denver to Decatur and Centaur tank fabrication was moved from San Diego to Decatur.
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, Tex. Launch operations are located at Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla., and Vandenberg AFB, Calif.
For more information on ULA, visit the ULA Web site at www.ulalaunch.com, or call the ULA Launch Hotline at 1-877-ULA-4321 (852-4321). Join the conversation at www.facebook.com/ulalaunch and twitter.com/ulalaunch.
SOURCE United Launch Alliance