Centennial, Colo. (June 12, 2013) – United Launch Alliance (ULA) successfully completed the Preliminary Design Review (PDR) and initial round of development testing for the Dual Engine Centaur in support of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Under Independent Research and Development (IRAD) funding, ULA is re-establishing the Dual Engine Centaur (DEC) configuration for performance and human space flight safety. Atlas V is capable of flying both a single and dual engine on the Centaur second stage, but most satellite missions require only a single engine due to the powerful capability of the Atlas V booster to loft the payload into orbit.

“DEC provides a performance improvement over Single Engine Centaur (SEC) that is extremely beneficial for Low Earth Orbit missions,” said George Sowers, ULA's vice president of Human Launch Services. “For human spaceflight, the increased thrust of the DEC allows the trajectory to be ‘flattened’ to provide, a safer re-entry environment for the crew in the unlikely event of a crew abort situation.” 

The PDR was attended by ULA’s Commercial Crew Customers, Boeing, Sierra Nevada and NASA as well as other government customers. The participants reviewed the detailed design required to implement the DEC on the current configuration of Centaur.  The dual configuration has flown on Atlas more than 160 times. However, with the increased performance of the Atlas V booster, it has not been required since 2003. The current configuration of Atlas V uses a single RL10 engine.   

The development testing was conducted at Innovative Engineering Solutions of Murrietta, Calif., and included liquid oxygen duct gimbal waterflow testing to validate flow characteristics, and loads testing at liquid nitrogen temperatures to determine loads and stresses, and the ability of the duct to survive the flight-like environment.  

“The testing was successful and met all of the criteria,” said Sowers. “The next major milestone for the DEC design is the Critical Design Review scheduled for next spring.”

The Boeing Company, with its CST-100, and Sierra Nevada Corporation, with its Dream Chaser®, both plan to use the flight-proven, reliable Atlas V as the launch vehicle.

With 38 successful missions spanning a decade of operational service, the commercially developed Atlas V is uniquely qualified to provide launch services for the Crew Transportation System. Because Atlas V is already certified by NASA to fly the nation’s most complex exploration missions, as well as critical Air Force and National Reconnaissance Office national security missions, ULA is able to provide a wealth of flight data, design implementation, detailed system and sub-system analysis, qualification and certification..

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 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.