Aerojet Rocketdyne secures largest RL10 Engine order from ULA for Amazon’s Kuiper satellite broadband system

April 13, 2022

Rendering of the new ULA Vulcan Centaur rocket which will incorporate a number of RL10C-X upper stage engines (Courtesy ULA)
Rendering of the new ULA Vulcan Centaur rocket which will incorporate a number of RL10C-X upper stage engines (Courtesy ULA)

United Launch Alliance (ULA), Centennial, Colorado, USA, has awarded its largest RL10 engine contract ever to Aerojet Rocketdyne, Los Angeles, California, USA, to deliver 116 RL10C-X engines for its Vulcan Centaur rocket. The new engines will support ULA as it works to fulfil its commitments under a contract from Amazon, as part of the largest commercial launch contract in history to establish Amazon’s Kuiper satellite constellation.

Project Kuiper is a low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite system designed to provide fast broadband to unserved and underserved communities around the world. To date, the company has secured up to eighty-three launches from three commercial space companies. These include thirty-eight launches on ULA’s Vulcan Centaur rocket, eighteen launches on Arianespace’s Ariane 6, and twelve launches on Blue Origin’s New Glenn, with options for fifteen additional launches. The agreements provide enough capacity to carry into space the majority of the 3,236 satellites that make up the Kuiper satellite constellation.

“The RL10 engine is the nation’s premier upper-stage engine and a true workhorse in the industry,” stated Eileen P Drake, CEO and president, Aerojet Rocketdyne. “With the RL10C-X, we’ve leveraged our industry-leading 3D printing technology to significantly reduce the cost of the engine while at the same time increasing its performance to provide our customer with enhanced mission capability.”

The RL10C-X uses an additively manufactured main injector and main combustion chamber, as well as a 239 cm monolithic lightweight composite (carbon-carbon) nozzle. The specific impulse, or Isp, of the RL10C-X is 461 seconds, which puts it near the very top of the RL10 engine family in terms of performance. Specific impulse measures the amount of thrust generated by a rocket engine per unit of propellant consumed per second.

“The RL10 is the highest performance upper-stage rocket engine flying today,” said Tory Bruno, ULA president and CEO. “We’re proud to be launching the Kuiper constellation with the next generation of this incredibly reliable and high-performance engine.”

The RL10C-X engine is designed, fabricated, assembled and tested at Aerojet Rocketdyne’s facility located in West Palm Beach, Florida. The RL10 engine line currently powers the upper stages of ULA’s Atlas V and Delta IV launch vehicles, and will soon begin supporting NASA’s Space Launch System.

In the latest issue of Metal AM magazine

Download PDF

Extensive AM industry news coverage, as well as the following exclusive deep-dive articles:

  • Metal powders in Additive Manufacturing: An exploration of sustainable production, usage and recycling
  • Inside Wayland Additive: How innovation in electron beam PBF is opening new markets for AM
  • An end-to-end production case study: Leveraging data-driven machine learning and autonomous process control in AM
  • Consolidation, competition, and the cost of certification: Insight from New York’s AM Strategies 2024
  • Scandium’s impact on the Additive Manufacturing of aluminium alloys
  • AM for medical implants: An analysis of the impact of powder reuse in Powder Bed Fusion

The world of metal AM to your inbox

Don't miss any new issue of Metal AM magazine, and get the latest industry news. Sign up to our twice weekly newsletter.

Sign up

Discover our magazine archive…

The free to access Metal Additive Manufacturing magazine archive offers unparalleled insight into the world of metal Additive Manufacturing from a commercial and technological perspective through:

  • Reports on visits to leading metal AM part manufacturers and industry suppliers
  • Articles on technology and application trends
  • Information on materials developments
  • Reviews of key technical presentations from the international conference circuit
  • International industry news

All past issues are available to download as free PDFs or view in your browser.

Browse the archive

Looking for AM machines, metal powders or part manufacturing services?

Discover suppliers of these and more in our comprehensive advertisers’ index and buyer’s guide, available in the back of Metal AM magazine.

  • AM machines
  • Process monitoring & calibration
  • Heat treatment & sintering
  • HIP systems & services
  • Pre- & post-processing technology
  • Powders, powder production and analysis
  • Part manufacturers
  • Consulting, training & market data
View online
Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap