Launch operator ULA (a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin) has announced its intention to replace the Centaur upper stage, which is installed on the new Vulcan rocket. The first stage of the carrier will remain at Cape Canaveral awaiting replacement.
The decision on the replacement was made based on the results of the investigation of the incident that occurred on March 29. Then, during the Centaur test, a hydrogen leak occurred. It broke out, which led to damage to both the stage and the test stand.
During the investigation, ULA specialists identified the cause of the incident and decided to strengthen the design of Centaur tanks. The stage already installed on the Vulcan rocket will be removed and sent to the factory for modification. It will be replaced by another copy, which will be used to complete the qualification tests interrupted due to the March incident.
So far, ULA has not reported how long it will take to restore the damaged stand and conduct all the necessary tests. But according to most experts, we are talking about at least a few months. Earlier, the head of ULA, Tory Bruno, said that even if it was necessary to make changes to the Vulcan design, he expected that its launch would take place before the end of this year.
Recall that a few weeks ago, ULA engineers fired the first stage of Vulcan, on which BE-4 methane engines manufactured by Blue Origin were installed. The test was a success. It was the final test in the first stage test program.
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