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ULA sets Christmas Eve for Vulcan Centaur launch

LAS VEGAS — Apparently, Santa Claus may not be the only one flying around South Florida on Christmas Eve.

United Launch Alliance announced Tuesday it has scheduled the launch of its first Vulcan Centaur for Dec. 24, carrying a commercial lunar lander. The Vulcan is built at ULA’s rocket plant in Decatur.

The company said the Astrobotic lunar lander Peregrine will be on the mission which will launch from Cape Canaveral.

ULA CEO Tory Bruno said the launch date was set to meet requirements of the robotic lunar lander.

“We’re going to a part of the moon where they need very carefully controlled lighting conditions and they also have to stay in radio communication with the Deep Space Network,” he said in an interview with CNBC. “When you put the two together, we get just a few days every month.”

If the launch isn’t possible on Dec. 24, Bruno said other dates are Dec. 25 and 26. Bruno told CNBC there is also a window in January, if the launch doesn’t take place in December.

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