After a delay, ULA lights up a Vulcan Centaur rocket for the first time at Cape Canaveral – Orlando Sentinel

United Launch Alliance returned its new Vulcan Centaur rocket to the launch pad at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station for a much-delayed flight readiness test launch Wednesday.

Bad weather on the space coast forced mission managers to delay the engines’ hot fire about three hours later than planned. The launch pad finally lit up at 9:05 p.m.

The two BE-4 engines on ULA’s Vulcan Centaur are lit up during a flight readiness launch test at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41 on Wednesday, June 7, 2023. (ULA)

“A full range of feelings, obviously. Super excited. Relieved, I’ll be honest. We’re very pleased,” said ULA’s vice president of Vulcan development, Mark Piller, after the test. “Lots of hard work by the whole team – many years of work.” To get us to where we are today.”

The test aimed to validate the fully integrated first and second stages of the new ULA missile by running a launch schedule, fuel load, and countdown that culminated with its two Blue Origin-built BE-4 engines igniting for approximately six seconds producing approximately 1 Million pounds of thrust while holding it in place so it won’t pop off the pad.

“It’s one of the last significant milestones on the path to launch, so it’s very satisfying,” Beller said. “It’s one of those things until you actually see it, it’s hard to imagine in reality. You’re sitting there, looking at those hardware — in some cases for years — stationary. And while it wasn’t taking off, to see it actually work, with the engines firing and all the systems working Together – it’s very exciting.

Jeff Bezos, CEO of Blue Origin, spoke with his congratulations after the hot blaze of ULA President and CEO, Tori Bruno.

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“Nothing is sweeter in rocket science than a code word. Congratulations to you, Tori, and the entire team!” he posted on Twitter.

“Thank you. I loved that BE4 Blue Blaze,” Bruno replied.

FRF was canceled two weeks ago when teams noticed a delayed response from the boost engine ignition system used to power the engines. So ULA sent her back to its vertical integration facility in the Cape to further understand the problem. ULA returned the missile to the platform on Tuesday.

The hardware parked at Space Launch Complex 41 is the same rocket that ULA plans to use for its first flight, dubbed Certification-1.

Bruno indicated last month that the launch wouldn’t happen until at least July. He said the launch depended on the completion of today’s test firing as well as the completion of the investigation after a devastating accident in March during the test. That incident featured a fireball that caused some damage to a test article for the rocket’s Centaur stage as well as the company’s test stand at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

It was a long time ago that the heavy Atlas and Delta 4 missiles were replaced by the ULA. Flight plans for early 2021 continued to push due to delays in engine delivery from Blue Origin as well as a slowdown in the COVID-19 pandemic and ULA’s rocket manufacturing.

Everything seemed to be going well toward launch on May 4 this year, though, before a test mishap occurred, though not all of the Certification-1 payloads had yet made their way to the Space Coast on their final flight.

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The primary payload for Certification-1 is the Astrobotic Peregrine lunar lander, which will be NASA’s first Commercial Lunar Surface Payload Service (CLPS) mission to the Moon. Vulcan also flies the first two of Amazon’s planned Project Kuiper satellite cluster, as well as the ashes of more than 150 people including “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry and actor James Doohan, who played “Scotty” in the TV series and movies.

This first mission is the first of two that are required before you can proceed to the many mod trips. The second flight will send Sierra Space’s Dream Chaser spacecraft looking to gain approval to join SpaceX and Northrop Grumman for NASA’s cargo delivery options to the International Space Station.

ULA has yet to fly a rocket in 2023, with the second-ever Delta IV Heavy flight scheduled to launch from Cape Canaveral no later than June 21. The flight was recently delayed again from its planned July takeoff with no alternative date announced.

Meanwhile, SpaceX continues to perform the lion’s share of launches from the Space Coast having flown 27 of the 28 orbital rockets to date with the only other coming from Relativity Space.

However, ULA’s launch schedule is big in the coming years if it can get the Vulcan Centaur up and running. Amazon has contracts with ULA, Blue Origin and Arianespace to fly up to 83 launches in order to build the Project Kuiper constellation by 2028. Vulcan is tapped for 38 of those in addition to the 9 already planned Atlas V launches, so ULA will be responsible announced the launch of more than half of the planned 3,236 Internet satellites.

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Much of that is required for Blue Origin to build enough BE-4 engines for the disposable missiles while also needing to supply its own in-development New Glenn missiles that each use seven BE-4s. However, each Vulcan takes only two of those engines while the upper stage uses two Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10C engines similar to those used in the Atlas V. The RL10s are built at the company’s West Palm Beach manufacturing facility.

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