Debut launch of the Vulcan rocket is scheduled for May

The first launch of the new Vulcan rocket will take place no earlier than May 4. This is stated in the statement of the launch operator ULA (a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin).

Main Features of Vulcan

Vulcan development began in 2014. After Russia seized Crimea, the US government decided to get rid of the dependence associated with Russian RD-180 engines, which were used on the first stage of the Atlas V rocket, for national security purposes. For this, it was decided to create a new carrier.

Vulcan rocket (concept). Source: ILA

The Vulcan rocket has a two-stage design with the possibility of adding side solid-fuel boosters. Its height is 60 meters, its diameter is 5.4 meters. In its most powerful configuration, the rocket will be able to launch up to 27 tons into low Earth orbit. 

The Vulcan first stage is equipped with two BE4 engines built by Blue Origin. They use methane as fuel and liquid oxygen as an oxidizer. The second stage is equipped with a pair of oxygen-hydrogen engines RL-10.

First flight of the Vulcan rocket

At the time of the announcement of the project, the first launch of Vulcan was scheduled for 2020. But later it repeatedly shifted. One of the reasons for the postponements were problems with the development of the BE-4 engine. It was only at the end of 2022 that Blue Origin finally delivered a batch of flight-certified powertrains, which made it possible to begin preparations for launch. In February 2023, engineers completed the assembly of the first instance of Vulcan. This made it possible to make a formal announcement about the date of the first flight of the rocket.

Assembly of the Vulcan rocket. Source: ULA

The choice of the date is due to several factors. One of them is the requirements imposed by the payload. The main cargo on board ULA will be the lunar vehicle Peregrine. The ballistic window for its launch opens only for a few days during the month.

In addition, ULA specialists want to conduct several more Vulcan tests. In the coming days, the rocket will be delivered to the launch pad and fully refueled, after which a countdown rehearsal will be held. This will be followed by a test with a 3.5-second burn of one of the BE-4 engines (it will run at 70% power).

If everything goes well, Vulcan will be returned to the Vehicle Assembly Building, where a payload will be installed on it. In addition to Peregrine, the rocket will put into orbit a couple of prototypes of Amazon’s Project Kuiper system satellites, as well as a capsule with the ashes of several celebrities, including the creator of “Star Trek” Gene Roddenberry, and the hair of American presidents.

According to

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