June 16, 2024


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ULA president says Vulcan rocket will slide to 2024 after problems with ground system

ULA president says Vulcan rocket will slide to 2024 after problems with ground system

Zoom in / ULA’s Vulcan rocket moves to the launch pad for testing.

United Launch Alliance

United Launch Alliance will not see the debut of its next-generation Vulcan rocket in 2023, as previously planned.

The company’s CEO, Tori Bruno, announced the delay On the social networking site X Sunday. United Launch Alliance was working on the first flight of the lift booster on Christmas Eve, from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

Bruno made the announcement after the company attempted to complete a fueling test of the entire rocket, known as a wet rehearsal.

“The car performed well,” Bruno wrote. “The ground system had some (routine) issues, (they are being corrected). We’ve been running the schedule for a long time so we’re not quite finished. I’d like a full WDR before our first flight, so it will probably be finished on Christmas Eve. Peregrine Next Window It’s January 8.”

Peregrine is the rocket’s primary payload, a lunar lander built by Astrobotic that aims to deliver NASA science experiments and other payloads to the moon. It has specific launch windows to reach the Moon and attempt to land during ideal lighting conditions.

From the information in Bruno’s comment, it appears as if the work to correct Vulcan’s ground systems for fueling — the first stage’s propellant is methane, which United Launch Alliance has never worked with before — will take long enough to prevent another fueling operation. . Testing ahead of the rocket’s late December launch window. Therefore, the next launch attempt will likely take place no later than January 8.

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Light rhythm

It’s been a slow year for United Launch Alliance, which dominated the U.S. launch industry a decade ago. The company will launch just three rockets this calendar year: the secret NROL-68 mission on a Delta IV Heavy rocket in June, the National Reconnaissance Office’s “Silentbarker” mission on an Atlas V rocket in September, and two Project Kuiper satellites. For Amazon Atlas V in October.

This is the company’s lowest total number of launches since its founding in 2006, when Lockheed Martin and Boeing’s rocket businesses were combined.

Part of the reason for the lower total is that United Launch Alliance is transitioning from its historic fleet of Delta and Atlas rockets to Vulcan, which aims to be more price competitive with other commercial offerings, such as SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy. Missiles. The Vulcan will be in high demand once it starts flying regularly.

However, another factor is that the Falcon rockets’ both low cost and reliability have taken commercial and government launch work away from United Launch Alliance. SpaceX has risen steadily over the past decade as United Launch Alliance has struggled to compete.

While Bruno has only launched three rockets in 2023, SpaceX has on a handful of occasions launched three rockets in three days during this calendar year. SpaceX will likely end the year with between 95 and 100 launches.