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United Launch Alliance

RocketShip docked at Port Canaveral, Florida – Jenny Hautmann

RocketShip is a United Launch Alliance (ULA) cargo vessel operating a shipping route from the ULA factory in Alabama to Port Canaveral, Florida. The vessel was custom-built for the role and is designed to be able to operate in shallow waterways as well as open ocean conditions. The primary mission of the vessel is to carry rockets from the factory to the launch site.

RocketShip was built in 1999 in Mississippi and began operating for ULA in 2000, working under its original name Delta Mariner. The vessel was renamed RocketShip during an overhaul in 2019. 

RocketShip internal diagram – ULA

ULA manufactures its family of rockets at its factory in Decatur, Alabama. Going forward, the vessel will primarily transport the Vulcan rocket but in the past has also carried the Atlas and Delta family of rockets too. These rocket cores are extremely large and are not suitable for road transportation to the launch site. 

The ULA factory is very close to the Tennessee River where the company has a dock for RocketShip to load/unload cargo. RocketShip will sail the Tennessee River and then down the Mississippi River towards the Gulf of Mexico. The vessel will then sail across the open ocean towards Florida and Cape Canaveral to unload.

The vessel has previously sailed to California, via the Panama Canal, to deliver to Vandenberg Space Force Base until 2022 and has also made trips to other destinations including Hawaii. 

An Atlas V booster is unloaded from Rocketship – NASA Kennedy

The cargo hold of RocketShip is capable of carrying an entire Delta IV rocket – comprising three boosters, second stage, fairing, and payload. 

With a surge in demand for the Vulcan rocket, ULA is currently designing a second cargo transportation ship to add additional shipping capacity for the future.

ULA CEO Tory Bruno (Center) with the crew of RocketShip during its re-christening ceremony Oct. 2019 – ULA

Last Known Location

Track the last known AIS position received from RocketShip. When the ship is far offshore or far inland, this service will not update regularly. Follow @SpaceOffshore across social media for updates!

Vital Statistics

Year Built: 1999

IMO: 9529889

Length: 95m

Width: 25m

Joined ULA: 1999

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