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ULA next-generation rocket to ‘transform’ future of space launch

DECATUR — The 256 area code will expand into space next year with the launch of the Vulcan Centaur rocket.

The next-generation rocket, powered by Huntsville-built Blue Origin motors and assembled at the United Launch Alliance facility in Decatur, is on path for its maiden launch early next year, according to ULA.

“We could not be more excited to be this close to seeing Vulcan lift off on its inaugural flight,” Tory Bruno, ULA president and CEO, said in a release. “Vulcan’s high energy design coupled with innovative technology provides one scalable system for all missions and will transform the future of space launch.”

ULA is proceeding to a first flight of Vulcan in 2023 to align with a request from its payload customer Astrobotic. The rocket will carry the Peregrine lunar lander for NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services program.

This commercial mission is part of ULA’s requirement to meet the U.S. Space Force certification of its new launch vehicle.

Mark Peller, vice president of major development, said the developers were dedicated to ensuring the product’s completion in a timely manner.

“We are committed to ensuring we fly the first certification mission and stay on schedule to achieve U.S. Space Force certification of Vulcan in advance of our first national security space mission in 4th quarter 2023,” he said.

In addition to the Astrobotic and Celestis payloads, Vulcan will carry two demonstration satellites for Amazon as part of its Project Kuiper.

The first Vulcan launch vehicle is awaiting installation of its Blue Origin BE-4 engines in ULA’s factory in Decatur.

ULA said it expects to ship the vehicle to the launch site in November. Vulcan will then undergo a final series of tests, culminating in a flight-readiness firing in December.

“This has been an incredible journey to get to this point and I am so proud of the development team,” said Bruno. “We look forward to the first flight as Vulcan offers all customers higher performance and greater affordability while continuing to deliver our unmatched reliability.”

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