BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – United Launch Alliance started testing on the Vulcan Centaur rocket Friday from the launch pad at Cape Canaveral, the space company’s CEO said in a tweet.
ULA president and CEO Tory Bruno said operations for a full-day rehearsal are underway ahead of a Cape Canaveral Space Force Station launch set for July.
The company said testing involving the spacecraft’s primary subsystem was successful and cryogenic propellant loading operations began on both the rocket’s booster stage and the Centaur V upper stage.
According to ULA, it will load more than a million pounds of liquid methane, hydrogen and oxygen into the rocket to simulate launch day.
At SLC-41, cryogenic propellant loading operations began on both the #VulcanRocket booster stage and Centaur V upper stage. We will load more than a million pounds of liquid methane, liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen into the rocket to simulate a launch day. #CountdowntoVulcan pic.twitter.com/gVaMKCgGHf— ULA (@ulalaunch) May 12, 2023
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This comes after the rocket was moved to the launch pad for tanking tests back in March, according to the space company’s blog.
The rocket’s launch debut was pushed back from May to July after a fireball erupted during testing of the rocket’s upper stage in March at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama, Space.com reported.
Under development since 2014, Bruno had originally said Vulcan would launch in 2019.
Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station was modified in 2021 to support Vulcan rocket launches.
#VulcanRocket primary subsystem testing successful. Moved into planned 30 min hold— Tory Bruno (@torybruno) May 12, 2023
The tanking test Friday was also at the same pad where the Atlas V rocket usually launches.
ULA said the heavy-lift Vulcan will replace the Atlas and Delta rockets.
“They’re counting on it to carry them into the future and to be competitive with the rockets that SpaceX is fielding for national security payloads, for example, which is a very big deal,” CBS News space consultant Bill Harwood said.
The first payloads will include a lunar lander from Pittsburgh aerospace company, Astrobotic, and two prototype satellites for Amazon’s Project Kuiper, a new space-based Internet constellation to rival SpaceX’s Starlink.
Meanwhile Atlas V, America’s longest-serving active rocket, and with a 100% success rate, has some planned final missions, including crewed flights of Boeing’s Starliner capsule to the International Space Station.
If ULA is satisfied with the results of Friday’s fueling test, then next week the company said it will test fire the Vulcan Centaur’s engines.
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