ULA Conducts Vulcan Testing Ahead of Maiden Flight

Image: ULA

ULA rolled its Vulcan rocket to the pad Friday and completed tank testing ahead of its expected first flight readiness firing test for the rocket’s BE-4 engine later this week.

“With success here, and a resolution of the Centaur V ground test anomaly, we are projecting for a Vulcan Cert-1 Launch this summer,” said ULA chief Tory Bruno. 

Hitting these pre-launch milestones comes after years of delays and setbacks, including a long wait for Blue Origin to deliver the engines it’s contributing to the rocket. 

  • Most recently, a March 29 explosion caused by a Centaur hydrogen leak led to the postponement of the May 4 launch. 

Vulcan 101: Vulcan is ULA’s next-gen launch vehicle. The rocket is capable of transporting 27.2 T to LEO, giving it a greater payload capacity than SpaceX’s Falcon 9. The launch system is designed with four distinct configurations, allowing it to support a wide range of missions. 

Maiden launch: Vulcan’s first flight will be the Cert-1 mission, planned for June or July. The launch will send two of Amazon’s Project Kuiper satellites to LEO, an Astrobotic lunar lander to the Moon, and a Celestis Memorial payload to deep space. 

Vulcan must demonstrate two certification launches before it can fly lucrative national security payloads.