Centennial, Colo., Oct. 12, 2022 – United Launch Alliance (ULA) is nearing completion of the development of the next-generation Vulcan Centaur launch vehicle and sets a path for its first launch early next year.
“We could not be more excited to be this close to seeing Vulcan lift off on its inaugural flight,” said Tory Bruno, ULA’s president and CEO. “Vulcan’s high energy design coupled with innovative technology provides one scalable system for all missions and will transform the future of space launch.”
ULA is proceeding to a first flight of Vulcan 1st quarter 2023 to align with a request from its payload customer Astrobotic, who will be flying its Peregrine lunar lander to the Moon for NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program.
This commercial mission is part of ULA’s requirement to meet the U.S. Space Force certification of its new launch vehicle. Mark Peller, vice president of Major Development, stated “We are committed to ensuring we fly the first certification mission and stay on schedule to achieve U.S. Space Force certification of Vulcan in advance of our first national security space mission in 4th quarter 2023.”
In addition to the Astrobotic and Celestis payloads, Vulcan will carry two demonstration satellites for Amazon as part of its Project Kuiper.
The first Vulcan launch vehicle is nearing completion in ULA’s factory in Decatur, Alabama and is awaiting installation of its BE-4 engines. We expect to ship the completed vehicle to the launch site in November.
Once at the Cape, Vulcan will undergo a final series of tests to verify its readiness for flight consisting of multiple tanking tests and a wet dress rehearsal, culminating in flight readiness firing in December, which will be the final step prior to launch. Following the successful final testing, Astrobotic and the other payloads will be installed on the launch vehicle.
“This has been an incredible journey to get to this point and I am so proud of the development team,” said Bruno. “We look forward to the first flight as Vulcan offers all customers higher performance and greater affordability while continuing to deliver our unmatched reliability.”