Ibadan, 24 February 2023. – United Launch Alliance (ULA) has set May 4 for the maiden launch of its Vulcan rocket. The flight will launch Astrobotic Technology’s Peregrine spacecraft to land on the Moon as well as two other payloads.
According to Parabolic Arc, ULA CEO Tory Bruno said that Blue Origin’s BE-4 first-stage engine’s qualification was the primary pacing item for the launch. Engineers discovered the oxygen pump on one of the engines had about 5 percent better performance than other engines the Company had tested. While performance variations of this nature are common across large rocket motors, ULA wanted to ensure it did not indicate a more serious problem. As a result, the Company took off the engine from the test stand and disassembled it for examination.
However, with the completion of the examination, ULA is now ready to begin testing with the remaining BE-4 engine, which should take about six weeks, according to the CEO.
Speaking on the mission, Mark Peller, vice president of Vulcan Development, said, “the ULA team has worked tirelessly to complete the rocket for the first certification flight. Now that production is complete, our launch team will begin processing and testing this innovative new rocket in preparation for the first mission, which will deliver a payload to the Moon.”
Regarding the mission, Peregrine will carry payloads from NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative that was awarded in 2019. Though Astrobotic had payload customers before NASA, that win propelled the Peregrine program forward. Despite the pandemic slowing supply chains and disrupting workflow during critical program phases, the team managed to progress quickly toward Peregrine’s upcoming delivery to ULA.