Raumfahrt - Start von ULA Vulcan rocket for Moon lander launch -Update3


United Launch Alliance begins final preparations for debut launch of Vulcan


United Launch Alliance recently announced they are targeting to launch its new Vulcan rocket on Christmas Eve and are in the midst of final preparations.

The first stage of the Vulcan rocket was stacked onto the Vulcan Launch Platform on October 26th, with both GEM 63XL solid rocket side boosters installed on October 31st and November 6th.

This comes as the Centaur V 2nd stage was finished with reinforcements following an anomaly on a different Cenaur V earlier in the year on a test stand. ULA loaded up the reinforced Centaur V onto its R/S Rocket Ship, which is currently making its way down the Mississippi River and will arrive at Port Canaveral in the coming days.

With the announcement of the launch date, the rocket’s first payload, Astrobotics Peregrine lunar lander was shipped down to Florida for integration onto the 2nd stage adapter and eventual encapsulation in the fairing.

Once the 2nd stage arrives back in Florida, it will be attached to the Vulcan first stage and ULA will conduct a Wet Dress Rehearsal and then move the rocket back to the Vertical Integration Facility for the payload to be attached. The rocket already completed a successful static fire earlier this year, with a short firing of the BE-4 engines at Space Launch Complex 41.


The debut launch of Vulcan has been a long time coming for United Launch Alliance as they make moves to catch up to SpaceX. ULA has been working toward multiple launch attempts over the past year, but with delays from Blue Origin and their BE-4 engines, they were forced to wait and then delayed even further due to the 2nd stage anomaly.

Those delays have caused 1 payload meant for the inaugural flight to be moved from the Vulcan to the Atlas V with Amazon’s Kuiper internet constellation satellite prototypes launching last month on the Atlas V and with all of the other Atlas V rockets being claimed by other payloads and the Delta IV Heavy retiring after its next two flights, ULA needs to ensure that the rocket performs flawlessly on the Certification 1 mission and is capable of launching National Security missions safely for the U.S. Government, its primary payload provider for the time being.

With all that being said, ULA is closer than ever to launching Vulcan this year after many, including myself, didn’t expect to see it fly until early 2024.

What do you think? Will Vulcan fly this year or be delayed into 2024?



Update: 16.11.2023


ULA chief on the Vulcan rocket: “The path to flight one is clear”

"We are expecting Blue to keep up with us."


United Launch Alliance is closing in on the debut flight of the Vulcan rocket, and it remains on track to fly the vehicle for the first time on December 24.

During a media roundtable on Wednesday afternoon, the chief executive of United Launch Alliance, Tory Bruno, said, “The path to flight one is clear" for Vulcan. The last major piece of hardware for the rocket, the Centaur V upper stage, arrived at Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Monday. All of the qualification testing necessary for the first flight, including for the upper stage, is complete.

In the coming days, Bruno said the Centaur upper stage would be integrated with the Vulcan first stage. Then, the combined vehicle will be rolled to the launch site for a fueling test known as a wet dress rehearsal in December. However, the rocket's main engines, BE-4s provided by Blue Origin, will not be fired. That's because the first stage already completed this hot fire test successfully in June.

Bruno said United Launch Alliance, or ULA, has some margin in its schedule as it works toward a launch at 1:49 am ET on Christmas Eve. If the weather is poor, the company also has launch opportunities on December 25 and 26 before the closure of the launch window this year. The "Certification 1" mission would then have another launch opportunity during the first half of January.

As its primary payload, the Certification 1 mission will carry a lunar lander built by Astrobotic, which will attempt to make a soft touchdown on the Moon early next year.

Waiting for Vulcan

Vulcan has been a long time coming. ULA has been developing the rocket for more than a decade as it sought to build a heavy lift rocket to replace its fleet of Atlas and Delta rockets. The change was driven by two major needs. One, the company needed a rocket more cost-competitive with SpaceX's Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy boosters. And two, the US Congress mandated that ULA end its reliance on the Russia-made engines that power the Atlas V rocket.

The big rocket was originally due to launch in 2020 but has slipped due to several issues, including the prolonged development process of the BE-4 rocket engine as well as a serious accident with the Centaur V upper stage in March this year.

As the delays have mounted, ULA has faced increasing pressure from the US Space Force to begin flying Vulcan, as it is slated to fly about two dozen national security missions in the next five years. Before it can do that, however, Vulcan must complete two certification flights and provide data to the military. The first of these is the Astrobotic flight, and the second mission will launch Sierra Space's Dream Chaser spacecraft. During Wednesday's teleconference, Bruno declined to set a specific target for that flight, mentioning only that it probably will take place during the first half of next year.

Going for lots of missions

Bruno said ULA has sold 70 Vulcan launches, a tally that consists of about one-half military missions and one-half commercial flights. The primary customer for the commercial launches is Amazon, which is eager to begin putting its Project Kuiper broadband Internet satellites into low-Earth orbit.

As a result, ULA is seeking to scale up production of the Vulcan rocket to reach a cadence of two launches a month by the end of 2025. That seems rather ambitious and might be asking a lot of suppliers, including engine manufacturer Blue Origin. Bruno, however, said the management challenges of that scaling are being worked on.

"We are expecting Blue to keep up with us, and we're working very, very hard to do that," he said. "So far, so good."

Quelle: arsTechnica


Update: 29.11.2023


1st Vulcan Centaur rocket will fly DNA samples of CEO, 'Star Trek' crew

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