United Launch Alliance (ULA) is gearing up for an exciting event, as the company prepares for the highly anticipated launch of its first Vulcan Centaur rocket. Set to take place in late December, this milestone launch marks an important step forward for ULA in its mission to provide reliable and efficient space transportation.
The components of the Vulcan Centaur rocket have arrived at the launch site at Cape Canaveral, with the Centaur upper stage currently being prepared for installation atop the Vulcan booster. This critical phase is essential for ensuring the success of the upcoming launch. ULA plans to conduct a wet dress rehearsal after the integration of the two stages, followed by the encapsulation and integration of the spacecraft.
The primary payload for this inaugural mission, called Cert-1, is the Astrobotic’s Peregrine lunar lander. This spacecraft will carry payloads for NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services program, as well as payloads for other customers. The launch opportunities for Cert-1 are three instantaneous windows on December 24, 25, and 26.
Excitingly, ULA plans to test the upgraded version of the Centaur, known as Centaur 5, during this mission. By successfully executing the Cert-1 mission, ULA will open doors for the second Vulcan mission, Cert-2, scheduled to launch in the first or second quarter of 2024. Cert-2 will carry the first Dream Chaser spacecraft for Sierra Space.
Looking ahead, ULA has ambitious goals to increase the Vulcan launch rate to twice a month by the end of 2025. This increase in launch frequency aims to address a backlog of 70 launches, highlighting ULA’s commitment to meeting the growing demand for space transportation services.
Speculations have been circulating about ULA potentially becoming an acquisition target. Reports suggest that three companies, including Blue Origin, are finalists in the race to acquire the company. However, ULA CEO Tory Bruno has refrained from discussing the potential sale during recent communications.
As the countdown to the first Vulcan Centaur rocket launch continues, anticipation is building among space enthusiasts. ULA’s dedication to innovation, reliability, and efficiency in space transportation puts them at the forefront of the industry. With the successful execution of the Cert-1 mission, ULA will be one step closer to achieving its future goals and revolutionizing space exploration.