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What Do You Get When You Cross IRVE With a Shuttle-Era P/A Module?

ULA’s Vulcan recovery concept:

ULA CEO Outlines BE-4 Engine Reuse Economic Case

It amounts to severing the engines from the stage, post-separation, and bringing them down via IRVE-derived inflatable heatshields.

An interesting method, but AvWeek’s description makes it sound a bit crude compared to going all the way to a single P/A-module-like unit. It may be that the decelerator required to bring down an object of that size and mass becomes impractical given the space and mass available to stow it on the launch vehicle. Or it could simply be the investment required makes the idea impractical (though it’s not necessarily that you’d be designing two vehicles, but rather a single vehicle that flies in two different configurations with a set of structural droptanks).

It’s nice to see the effects serious competition is having on the older players in the space industry.

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