I am the President and CEO of United Launch Alliance, America’s #1 space launch provider. I’ve been a rocket scientist for 30 years, and am excited for your questions. I'll start answering questions at 7:00pm ET. I am looking forward to getting to know the space community here on reddit.

Update 8:15pm: It’s time for me to sign off for tonight. This was a lot of fun – I really enjoyed your questions. This group obviously knows their stuff about space launch and rocketry! I will probably check in later this week to answer a few more questions. I look forward to my second AMA, which I’ll do after we unveil our new rocket at the National Space Symposium next month.

My Proof: https://twitter.com/torybruno/status/575785268780867584

Comments: 371 • Responses: 60  • Date: 

Smell_my_toots45 karma

As a new grad, what makes ULA an attractive employer over SpaceX or anyone else in the industry?

ToryBruno66 karma

If you come to ULA, you will be with the premier provider, flying every month, if not more often. You will also get to work on advanced technology in an environment where we value our people and work hard to develop you as a professional throughout your career. You'll work with the best and.. have the opportunity for work-life balance

FoxhoundBat34 karma

I know you will release the details about NGLS in April but i would like to read your thoughts on reusability.

In early February you had presentation about reusability and basically you stressed that the most expensive part of the rocket is stage one and of that it is the engines and surrounding structures for them. It appears ULA is aiming for partial reusability of stage one instead of full reusability of stage one ala SpaceX.

Have ULA looked at the stage recovering like SpaceX with boostback, re-entry burn and so on? And if so, why was the partial recovery preferred over the full SpaceX style of recovery?

ToryBruno29 karma

We have looked at a wide spectrum of reusability options. The challange is not technology. It is economics. Full stage reuse is challenging for the reasons I discussed at Stanford. I believe a SMART Systems Engineering approach to this problem is possible. See you at the Space Symposium...

PlanetaryDuality30 karma

Hi Mr.Bruno, thanks for doing this! First of all, all of us space fans appreciate you making ULA a more open company with your active presence on twitter and the like. I have two questions:

  1. ULA plans to consolidate to 2 pads, one on each coast. Will NGLS fly off of newly built pads, or modified pads that already exist? And if so, would it be Delta or Atlas pads?

  2. What is the future of liquid hydrogen with ULA, now that Delta IV has been slated to be retired around 2018?

ToryBruno21 karma

  1. Yes

  2. Our high energy upper stage will continue to be LOX/LH2

romn8tr30 karma

What was catalyst to step up PR effort to interface with space community and rocket fans? The effort is acknowledged and very much appreciated.

ToryBruno26 karma


Space touches everyone's life. I want to demystify the industry that does this.

Lanik_199923 karma

Hello Mr. Bruno. Have you played Kerbal Space Program?

ToryBruno36 karma


fluffy_543221 karma

What are ULAs plans for the the ACES and IVF projects? Is ULA going to invest into a new upper stage? If so, when is it likely to fly?

Liquid hydrogen propulsion is really really hard and one of the areas where ULA has a significant technological advantage. It would be great to see you build on this. IVF in particular claims to potentially reduce cost by removing entire subsystems.

ToryBruno24 karma

No spoilers on the next gen. But... I will say that we will invest in our upper stage. The higher energy upperstage capability we have is one of the things that sets us apart from others.

Astrogeek120 karma

Mr. Bruno, I'm wondering why the Atlas program originally chose the RD-180 as an engine in the 90s instead of other US made options?

ToryBruno50 karma

Because the Gov asked us to. There was concern at the end of the cold war about Russian rocket scientists. Now, is the right time to move to an American Engine.

fluffy_54329 karma

In the 90s space cooperation with Russia was seen as a way to prop up a fragile regime and prevent proliferation of nuclear and ICBM technology.

I wonder if the US government actually encouraged Lockheed-Martin to pick a Russian engine. Such an arrangement probably looked like a really good way to build trust between old rivals and a foreign policy win.

Sadly times have changed again.

ToryBruno6 karma

Yes, that's exactly what happened. It's also worth noting that the RD180 was considered an advanced design. American engines of the era typically operated fuel rich and at lower pressures to avoid the highly corrosive/erosive effects of an oxygen rich mixture. The RD180's technology leap frogged this to an oxygen rich staged combustion, delivering higher performance.

harrisoncassidy19 karma

With other launch operators (e.g. SpaceX) taking a bigger piece of the proverbial pie which is lower-cost satellite launches, how do you feel NGLS (Next Generation Launch System) will fit into the launch market in terms of overall cost including flight preparations and integration costs?

And is there a reason why ULA is not able to start developing and testing either horizontally or vertically landing, reusable launch systems?

Thanks Tory

ToryBruno14 karma

Our next generation will be more capable, more flexible, and substantially lower cost. Combined with our reliability and schedule certainty, I expect it to be very competitive.

c-minus14 karma

When the NGLS comes online, how long will it take for the Atlas and Delta rockets to be phased out?

ToryBruno16 karma

A couple of years (after NGLS starts flying)

Neptune_ABC14 karma

How many flights, and how much time after the first flight will be needed for NGLS to receive EELV certification?

Will the certification process be the same as the new entrant certification that SpaceX is going through with Falcon 9, or will ULA's incumbent status allow for a different process.

ToryBruno17 karma

The USAF chartered a review board to examine the certification process. On going now. Both ULA and Space X are participating. I think its likely that some simplification will result. However, certification will still be hard. It should be. Billion dollar assets with lives at risk...

fpicotte14 karma

Hi Mr Bruno. As a young business development professional returning to university in aerospace engineering (oriented towards astronautics), one of the things I really relate to is student entrepreneurship, and especially technology start-ups based upon their own research. What space-related business opportunities (say 3-5) can you see arising in the next 5-10 years, towards which students could start focussing their projects and research right now? Any broad areas or specific technology gaps in mind? Thanks!

ToryBruno21 karma

What a great question! I anticipate an appearance of real utility in small sats appearing in the next decade. This will create new opportunities for a number of commercial providers. That will affect lift (us) as well as satellite builders and the terrestrial businesses they support.

gmadjr11 karma

Mr. Bruno,

Were you aware of the transition and role you were stepping into when offered the CEO position? (I.e. did you know you would be transforming a company in the way you have?)

ToryBruno17 karma

Not to this extent

IAMwondering111 karma

What impact to production do you think the upcoming union negotiations will have to the Decatur facility?

ToryBruno10 karma

We have the best technicians in the world. I'll get back to you on this one

ToryBruno5 karma

I intend to partner with the IAM to identify ways that ULA can become more competitive by improving productivity and efficiencies. We have a great workforce of highly skilled and dedicated technicians. They build the best rockets in the world and have a deep commitment to our mission. I am looking forward to a bright future together.

parabolicarc11 karma

What is going to happen to Boeing's commercial crew missions once the Atlas V is discontinued? I ask because it's going to take several years to certify the new launch system. What happens in the meantime?

ToryBruno14 karma

We intend to have Atlas supporting Boeing's crew missions until NGLS is available and certified for human flight.

Ambiwlans10 karma

How long do you expect USAF certification to take both with the new engine replacement for the RD-180 (on track for 2019) and with the NGLS?

ToryBruno13 karma

We don't certify an engine. We certify a provider and a Launch Vehicle. Our approach is different to certification. ULA is (the only currently) certified provider. We are providing Gov insight into our new American engine and LV during development. I expect that this will simplify the certification experience.

folklorefrog10 karma

Did you have a favorite possible NGLS name suggestion that didn't make the final cut of options for any particular reason?

ToryBruno11 karma

Yes, I do. It did not make the cut...

ULAemployee9 karma

I find it interesting that you answer the public's questions before answering your own employees' from the All Hands Meeting. Would you agree that this sends the wrong message to those that are working for you? Please don't respond with "Thank you for your question. An answer will be provided shortly."

ToryBruno13 karma

My apologies for the webcast going down. I will be doing Q&A with Harlingen and VAFB tomorrow. Decatur when I'm there in two weeks. The Cape is a little busy today. Get them soon

pitcapuozzo9 karma

Hi Mr. Bruno. What do you think will be the future of rocket propulsion on the long run (presuming we will move away from conventional chemical propulsion)? Thanks.

ToryBruno23 karma

There will be a future beyond chemical, but its a ways off. A clean nuclear-thermal hybrid might be the next break through.

sel2278 karma

Do you have a launch day ritual?

ToryBruno25 karma

Yes, I do, but its a secret you can only learn by coming to ULA

znapel7 karma

Mr. Bruno, I tried to ask this before on Twitter, but the limitations of 140 characters messed things up...

Could you explain how the USAF's plan to fund an RD-180 alternative fit into ULA's plans?

They're at a stage of talking about what studies need to be funded, whilst ULA is actually funding ongoing development on engines right now. With NGLS in the works, does ULA have a place for the product of their efforts?

ToryBruno7 karma

We have identified private funding to develop the replacement engine. Congress has also identified $220M to put to this issue. However, I am happy to accept help. We have recommended that there are valuable investments the Gov can make in technology risk reduction and integration of a new engine into the rocket and its launch infrastructure. The USAF is currently thinking through how to invest for the maximum benefit and fairness. I expect we'll see their strategy soon.

ToryBruno6 karma

A little more on the potential benefit of Gov investment: Our schedule to develop an American Engine is aggressive. There is, therefore, risk that technical challenges could push us right, leaving a gap in Assured Access. Secretary James referred to this in her recent testimony. She is absolutely correct. One of the things Gov investment could do is technology risk reduction, improving the likelihood of achieving the plan.

Rocket_ST7 karma

What is your philosophy of leadership?

ToryBruno8 karma

Leaders create a compelling vision and then enable their people to succeed

ColoradoScoop7 karma

I know predicting too far into the future is a fool's errand, but where do you see ULA in 50 years?

ToryBruno5 karma

I see us as an internal part of an infrastructure supporting a vibrant off-earth economy

autodc56 karma

Hello Mr. Bruno, I am a Canadian law student and I am researching regulatory changes and property rights issues. My question for you is two-fold: with the proposed changes to the US Code Title 51, H.R. 5063 (Asteroids Act) and with your own stated goal of increasing ULA's access to the commercial launch services market, do you see the potential for the extractive/prospecting sector to quickly expand into the market and if so, how will ULA respond to the rising demand?

ToryBruno5 karma

Sorry, I'm just a rocket scientist. This sounds like a better question for my GC

Universu6 karma

What is you favorite book?

ToryBruno10 karma

Once and Future King

PhillipsJT6 karma

Sir; I'm a student veteran (Marine Corps). What is ULA doing to improve outreach to veterans that want to work for ULA?

Also; does ULA plan to create a rapidly reusable rocket similar to what SpaceX is currently doing? Does ULA have any interest in helping humanity reach Mars? Thanks!

ToryBruno11 karma

We highly value veterans. They come work-ready and with a deep appreciation of the mission. We have a significant number of veterans at ULA. I am always looking for new ways to reach out to this community.

ToryBruno13 karma

Yes, I see this time as the very beginning of a great journey where we will seek our human destiny beyond this planet. Mars is just one destination...

TampaRay6 karma

In the past, ULA's manifest has been made up largely of Air Force block buy launches. With SpaceX's certification nearing completion and ULA's next generation rocket being announced, do you see ULA's manifest shifting to include a larger number of commercial customers and do you think ULA will retain the majority of the Air Force launches available in the future?

ToryBruno4 karma

Yes, ULA will extend further into Civil and Commercial launches. There is a reduced number of total NSS launches expected in the 2018 - 2020 time frame, so we would have expanded into these markets regardless. I anticipate that there will continue to be heavier payloads requiring lift above GSO, for which ULA will have the only capability for quite some time. Looking forward to competing on the others.

ToryBruno3 karma

Yes, ULA will extend further into Civil and Commercial launches. There is a reduced number of total NSS launches expected in the 2018 - 2020 time frame, so we would have expanded into these markets regardless. I anticipate that there will continue to be heavier payloads requiring lift above GSO, for which ULA will have the only capability for quite some time. Looking forward to competing on the others.

PlanetaryDuality5 karma

Is ULA interested in any other markets besides EELV-class? Smallsat? Heavy lift?

ToryBruno6 karma


KerbalEssences5 karma

Hey Mr. Bruno. I am Lukas from Germany and space flight caught me by accident when I tried out a game called Kerbal Space Program. How do you weigh the impact of KSP or space related computer games in general on space exploration?

ToryBruno11 karma

As you probably figured out, some of the physics is Kerbal are a little off, but hey - its just a game, not a high fidelity 6-DOF simulation (although that would be pretty cool). I think Kerbal is a great platform for getting people interested in rocketry, the basic principles of lift, and when you're a newbie - how hard it can be to get it right. And its just plain fun.

KerbalEssences2 karma

Thank you very much for your time! Also congratulations on the successful MMS launch!

ToryBruno6 karma


gilbylg455 karma

Former Rocketdyne engineer here (I have climbed all over the launch pad at the Cape). As hard as liquid propulsion is, and with the glaring difference in experience between Rocketdyne and Blue Origin, can you expand on your plan for replacing the RD-180? How do you see integrating a new engine changing future ULA launches?

ToryBruno2 karma

Much more will be revealed at the Space Symposium in April

avron_P4 karma

Who will pay for the new vehicle family?

ToryBruno7 karma

ULA and its strategic partners (ie; private industry). Gov is thinking about investing in technology risk reduction. I'll take the help

Matther7774 karma

Hello Mr. Bruno. I appreciate the time you are spending answering questions. In the future do you plan on recreating a MARS (Mid Air Recovery System) for engines? I think this would really benefit in the cost saving factor.

ToryBruno3 karma

No spoilers!

Nixon4Prez4 karma

Hey Tory, thanks for doing this

I know you’re saving all the details about the NGLV until the Space Symposium, but I was wondering if you could at least reveal what the plan is for the pads. I’ve heard rumors that it’ll fly from the Atlas pads, but in light of your plans to retire DIV (excluding the heavy), and Delta’s lower flight rate in general, is that still the plan, if it ever was?


ToryBruno2 karma

The pads will get their own announcement this year. But, I can say that we looking to put real innovation into to the pads so they can be mission agnostic, flexible, and support a very high launch rate

avron_P4 karma

What future is there for solids at USA?

ToryBruno5 karma

ULA will continue to have a modular and scalable vehicle architecture. So yes, we will have continue to have solids

Destructor17013 karma

Oh, I just thought of another stupid question! Stupid questions are better because other people are less likely to have asked them... and this one's so stupid it might actually be good:

If you had the chance to re-name ULA, what would you call it?

ToryBruno5 karma

Interesting question. What do you think?

FoxhoundBat3 karma

Could you give us some hints whether NGLS will use completely new stage two or borrow Atlas V stage 2?

ToryBruno2 karma

no spoilers

SpaceNanzzzzzzzzzzzz3 karma

Where do you find the time to answer all your tweets? Do you set ten minutes aside every hour?

ToryBruno12 karma

Every spare moment. (and I don't actually sleep...)

steelsteed1173 karma

Hi Mr Bruno!

I heard from some ULA employees that the company has an interesting relationship with Boeing and Lockheed Martin because of the joint partnership. Do you have any insight on any unique interactions with either company?

ToryBruno7 karma

We are a separate company owned by Lockheed and Boeing. We interact through a board of directors. Our employees, even those formerly at LM or TBC, left those companies and became ULA employees.

gmadjr3 karma

Mr. Bruno,

Some believe that the competitor sells launch services at a loss and is funding current launch campaigns with future missions. This is obviously not sustainable, but would this be an approach ULA would take to win business?

ToryBruno6 karma

Not really. As a mature business, we are expected to earn profit. And, we need those profits, so we can invest in our next gen

AvenueEvergreen3 karma

In what ways will ULA's next generation launch vehicle be superior to the capabilities of Atlas/Delta today?

Does the consolidation to one launcher mean that ULA is looking to share the national security launch market with SpaceX? If so, are there other markets where the new Launch System will be competitive?

ToryBruno3 karma

Our next gen will have significantly more lift capability as well as a quantum jump in on orbit flexibility

avron_P3 karma

Are you concerned about leaking something on social media?

ToryBruno3 karma

Not really

bloodyREDburger2 karma

Looks like I missed this AMA, but I have a couple USAF buddies working spacelift out at Vandy-Land. I got to see the last of the Titans go up in 2005 while I was training out there.

Do you guys launch out of Kodiak as well, or is the location just too remote/prohibitive?

Keep up the good work!

ToryBruno2 karma


ghunter72 karma

Hello Mr. Bruno, Thanks for doing this AMA for Space Enthusiasts everywhere.

Has there been any ongoing efforts by ULA to develop propellant depots since the 2008 study? Would ULA consider taking on the cost and risk of developing this tech in order to foster growth of the commercial market or opening up mission options for government agencies? (If you build it they will come?)

ToryBruno3 karma

We continue to study the feasibility and utility. If a demand presents, we'll look at it

Robohazard2 karma

Hi Mr. Bruno! Thank you for doing this AMA!

I'm a student interning for a big partner of ULA's, still deciding on a career to pursue, and was wondering what fields you foresee being big influences on your industry in the coming decades. Are there any big technologies in early development that you think will have have a large impact on space travel down the road that would be well worth getting involved in now? Thank you!

ToryBruno6 karma

I think there are a number of exciting technologies begining to emerge. Small sats will achieve utility and spark a host of new missions. That will directly affect lift. There are promising technologies appearing more directly related to human space travel. I am especially intrigued by Bigelow's collapsable habbitat technology, that could facilitate lifting what would become very large volume modules with conventional, existing fairings. I don't know which big partner you're at, but yesterday's announcement by LM of its Jupiter Space Tug looks pretty cool. A tug may not sound glamorous at first, but the utility it could promise is exciting. And, of course, NASA and Boeing's (and ULA) SLS will be the biggest rocket in the world...

ToryBruno3 karma

I think there are a number of exciting technologies begining to emerge. Small sats will achieve utility and spark a host of new missions. That will directly affect lift. There are promising technologies appearing more directly related to human space travel. I am especially intrigued by Bigelow's collapsable habbitat technology, that could facilitate lifting what would become very large volume modules with conventional, existing fairings. I don't know which big partner you're at, but yesterday's announcement by LM of its Jupiter Space Tug looks pretty cool. A tug may not sound glamorous at first, but the utility it could promise is exciting. And, of course, NASA and Boeing's (and ULA) SLS will be the biggest rocket in the world...

chinggisk2 karma

Kirk or Picard?

ToryBruno8 karma


CapCornsnack2 karma

Have the color(s) of paint for the NGLS been decided on? If so, could we have a hint as to what color(s) it will be?

ToryBruno3 karma

Yes. We are America's Ride to Space

Astrosurf962 karma

Mr. Bruno, Thanks for doing the AMA!

I'm wondering what skill sets would ULA want for a new hire, or intern?

ToryBruno4 karma

Creativity and a personal commitment to the mission

astrofreak922 karma

I've seen on Twitter that you've been the subject of some good-hearted trolling from space enthusiasts Trampoline Rocket and FakeToryBruno. You seem to be having fun with it now. How did you react to that when it first started, and how has that influenced your PR strategy for the company?

ToryBruno6 karma

I thought they had a great sense oh humor

SexiasMaximus2 karma

Why do all of your projects cost seem to cost so much more than comparable SpaceX projects?

ToryBruno6 karma

The key point is that ULA cut costs substantially when it was formed. We continue to drive down cost. Our future launch services will be very cost competitive.

avron_P2 karma

You have some bright engineers working for you, could you see a small team working on an engine internally?

ToryBruno3 karma

No. We have chosen our partners. We have our team fully employed on the rest of the new rocket

jishFBI2 karma

As a new graduate in engineering I'm curious what you have to say about the generally negative opinions I've heard about ULA's corporate culture. I've heard it said that it took the worst parts of both Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

On a lighter note, why is the only job monster can find for me at ULA?

ToryBruno3 karma

Clearly written by the uninformed. Because Monster obviously knows what's best for you... Listen to your monster

3_pac1 karma

Now that you're living in the Napa Valley of craft beer, have you become a craft beer enthusiast?

ToryBruno7 karma

Still working on that. My doctor told me to drink less beer and more scotch...

[deleted]-4 karma


ToryBruno7 karma