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  • Hey it's me Destin, welcome back to Smarter Every Day

  • I love rockets

  • If you've been around this channel, you know that about me

  • and today is like the best day ever

  • because we're going to learn how to build rockets.

  • Just down the road from Huntsville, Alabama

  • there's a city named Decatur.

  • And in that city, there is a rocket factory owned by

  • a company called United Launch Alliance,

  • and that factory has been cranking out incredibly reliable

  • rockets for years.

  • Because these orbital rockets have some of the

  • same technologies in them as ballistic missiles,

  • the knowledge about how to build them is protected.

  • In the United States we have a set of regulations called ITAR

  • International Traffic in Arms Regulations

  • Because of ITAR, nobody's going to let you walk

  • into a rocket plant with a camera and film things.

  • They can't risk that stuff getting out and breaking the law.

  • So there has to be an incredible amount of trust

  • between the parties that want to film things, and the people that own the plant.

  • Thankfully, I was given the opportunity to build that trust

  • with ULA, when I went and watched the launch of

  • the Parker Solar Probe, and I met the CEO of ULA on the launchpad.

  • If you haven't heard of this guy, Tory Bruno,

  • then you're in for a treat.

  • He's a legitimate rocket scientist who know his stuff inside and out.

  • It was at this launch that Tory and I built trust with each other.

  • Like, this guy is the real deal.

  • The tour we're about to go on has never been done on the internet,

  • Tory literally takes us right up to the line of what he can show us,

  • and all along the way he's answering my technical questions,

  • and he's letting me explore the factory.

  • So here we go, let's take the first ever online tour of

  • the United Launch Alliance rocket factory in

  • Decatur, Alabama, with the CEO of ULA.

  • Tory Bruno.

  • Okay, we've got Tory, mic'd up now, -Hi!

  • and you're gonna show me the rockets that are - Yes, yeah

  • fabricated at this facility? What do we have?

  • Okay, so we've got an Atlas V on the side,

  • this is kind of our workhorse, and it's in the

  • five meter payload fairing configuration.

  • So that's what we're talking about here,

  • it also has its SRB's on the side, which is sort of its

  • maximum lift version.

  • When it's got all five of those, we call it the beast.

  • - And this is the Delta IV Heavy, and this is what

  • you--thank you again, for letting me -Yeah, of course

  • participate, or at least see the Parker Solar Probe

  • Yeah, that was fun huh

  • -And that's fabricated here in Decatur?

  • Yes, yeah so three core rocket, you know literally

  • literally three rockets kind of bolted together,

  • and it is our largest rocket; it's physically the largest rocket

  • in the world right now,

  • and it is what we used for Parker Solar Probe.

  • -And this is what I want to talk about, -Yeaaaaah

  • this is Vulcan, and this rocket has never flown.

  • Never flown, not yet.

  • And you're going to see, the first flight vehicle hardware

  • in the factory being fabricated when we go in there today.

  • -Today -Yeah

  • Okay! -So this is our brand new rocket,

  • you can think of it as kind of a derivative of those

  • two in a way, so it'll be large

  • 5.4 meter diameter, so a little bit bigger than Delta,

  • it can take six SRB's, it's a huge cavernous payload volume for

  • the spacecraft, and this rocket has 30% more lift capability

  • than this big three-core monster.

  • -So when you say six SRB's...

  • Six of them, yeah. -And that's just to get out of the Earth's gravity well

  • Yes, right, exactly.

  • -Can we go see the stuff?

  • Yeah, let's go see it.

  • Okay, we're at a rocket factory, let's do it.

  • -We're gonna peel off to the right here Okay

  • Okay I'm seeing the grid here

  • Yeah, so this is a barrel section from the booster over your head,

  • actually from an Atlas.

  • And I'm going to walk you down to the end of the factory where

  • this first gets made; it's the first thing we do

  • Raw stock comes in the back door,

  • gets machined, puts this curve in it,

  • and then we'll walk you all the way through to a completed version.

  • -That's awesome

  • Okay, so there's something unique about the north Alabama area here,

  • correct me if I'm wrong, but there's a little triangle:

  • there's a nuclear power station,

  • there's a steel mill,

  • -Yes

  • and there's also a rocket factory like in a triangle.

  • -That's true And then you got a river running between them

  • -Yup

  • and so you can bring in steel, you can make a rocket

  • using the power from the nuclear plant, -Yes

  • is that why you're here?

  • That's part of why we're here, but it's

  • also because of the talent that we have here with

  • University of Alabama and the other Alabama universities

  • and the technician programs they have here;

  • you just get an awesome workforce.

  • And with the river, which is only a mile from here

  • down Red Hat Road, we have the dock for our rocket

  • ship, so we can transport our rockets out to the launchpad.

  • This is the rocketship Tory's talking about;

  • ya see? Says so right on the side: "Rocketship.

  • Rocketship navigates its way through several rivers

  • up to the Mississippi River, down to the Gulf of Mexico,

  • and then it heads to whatever pad the rockets will launch from.

  • You should come back sometime and do the ship.

  • Yeah, I should ride on the ship. Is that a thing? -Yeah

  • Can you do that? -Yes that is a thing

  • Okay we're getting on a golf cart, and

  • we have to cut cameras because we're going to pass

  • uh, not "secret stuff", but things we can't film.

  • Right? -Right

  • Okay, cutting the camera off

  • Ok we're on the golf cart, and I've obtained permission

  • to film straight up so you can't see "that"

  • which is pretty neat.

  • Ok so,

  • I can't talk about that right now, can I

  • No, we can't show it to you, but I can tell you what it is

  • That's a Delta payload fairing

  • so one of the smaller versions of the Delta's payload fairing

  • and then you're passing by a heat shield here that would

  • protect the RS-68 engine,

  • from its own plume during flight.

  • Ok... this is almost emotional.

  • I mean, you know what it's like to sit in class and study

  • this stuff, -Oh yeah, sure

  • and then...

  • cause you went to Cal Poly right?

  • Right.

  • Yeah, so this is me looking at all the stuff I've learned about

  • and finally getting to see it.

  • It's on thing to see it on the pad, but uh

  • it's almost like a holy experience.

  • Yeah well, you're inside where it's actually happening,

  • where it all gets put together.

  • Okay I'm starting to get the smell of the machine shop,

  • the manufacturing, the cooling oil, -Yep

  • smell. -You got it

  • It's my understanding you're about to show me how to

  • build a rocket from scratch.

  • Yes I am.

  • Okay, excellent, so we're going to the door, right?

  • Yes we are

  • Okay this is what I wanted to see, here at ULA:

  • This is the door.

  • I can't even get--it's a wide angle lens--so that's the door

  • where the material comes in, right? -Right

  • That's where the raw aluminum plate and other materials come in,

  • and then this is the receiving area,

  • and as they move that way turn into a rocket.

  • So we're about to build a rocket by going

  • that way in the plant.

  • Exactly.

  • -Okay, I'm game let's do this.

  • Alright let's do it.

  • And this is an active manufacturing facility,

  • so you're just going to have to deal with the audio,

  • there's a lot of tools running.

  • Yeah, sorry about that, but, ya know, building rockets.

  • It's good

  • Oh wow, that is...

  • that is really--can I go touch that?

  • Yeah yeah, absolutely.

  • This is a very, very expensive, piece--is that aluminum or stainless?