ULA Consortium to Build Cargo Ship for Vulcan Space Rockets

United Launch Alliance (ULA) has partnered with Bollinger Shipyards and Bristol Harbor Group to design and construct a cargo vessel for Vulcan rockets.

The Vulcan is a heavy-lift capability designed for the US Space Force’s National Security Space Launch program to bring satellites from the Pentagon and other American intelligence agencies into orbit.

Under the project, Bollinger will develop a ship with ocean and river-standard specifications.

Construction of the 356-foot (108-meter) vessel is now underway at the company’s factory in Amelia, Louisiana, with an expected completion date of January 2026.

Throughout the collaboration, Bristol Harbor Group will support corresponding engineering and architecture processes to complete the ship.

Once operational, the vehicle will transport the Vulcan rockets from ULA’s center in Decatur, Alabama, to its designated launch sites at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California and Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

A United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan VC2S rocket launches its first certification mission from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida, Jan. 8, 2024. Cert-1 will deliver the Astrobotic Peregrine commercial lunar lander into a highly elliptical orbit more than 220,000 miles above Earth to intercept the moon and will carry a Celeste’s Memorial Spaceflight payload into deep space. (U.S. Space Force photo by Joshua Conti)
United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan rocket deploys from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. Photo: Joshua Conti/US Space Force

“We are pleased to be partnering with two of the best companies in the business to build our second transportation ship,” ULA’s Chris Ellerhorst stated.

“Over the next year, ULA will be doubling its launch rate capacity…to ensure timely deliveries of the rockets to the launch site, we needed to build a second ship to support our transportation needs.”

Maintaining Space Launch Support

According to Bollinger, the resulting vessel will be named “SpaceShip” and will operate alongside its predecessor “RocketShip.”

ULA’s first cargo vessel had been carrying the Atlas V rockets the Vulcan will eventually replace.

The Pentagon retired the Atlas V in 2021 along with the Delta IV rockets in 2024. Together, both systems have completed more than 100 space launches since their induction.

United Launch Alliance’s RocketShip cargo vessel
United Launch Alliance’s RocketShip cargo vessel. Photo: United Launch Alliance’

“We’re proud to continue our partnership with ULA in support of their increasing capabilities and launch capacity,” Bollinger Shipyards President and CEO Ben Bordelon remarked.

“Bollinger’s skilled workforce is second to none when it comes to designing, engineering and building complex vessels to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow, and we look forward to beginning work on SpaceShip to ensure delivery of Vulcan rockets from the factory to the launch pad.”

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