BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. — United Launch Alliance is making final preparations for a Christmas Eve first flight.
The new Vulcan Centaur Rocket is scheduled to lift off from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. The certification flight is expected to set the stage for a series of missions in 2024.
ULA officials say they’re actually slightly ahead of schedule, but still have some testing to do on the integrated rocket and must complete a practice launch day of activities ahead of liftoff.
The Centaur V’s upper stage is currently integrated atop a Vulcan booster.
The assembled rocket will undergo combined testing before a west dress rehearsal ahead of the planned Dec. 24 launch.
“They are a couple of days ahead of schedule,” Dr. Ken Kremer of Space Upclose explained. “We had a briefing with the ULA CEO a few days ago, and that’s what they said, so there’s margin in there.”
ULA must launch between Dec. 24 and 25 or wait for a January launch window. The upcoming mission is the first of two flight tests required for ULA’s certification process with the U.S. Space Force.
The flight is also carrying some important payloads.
“There are NASA experiments on here,” Kremer said. “NASA paid for part of this mission, a big part of this mission is to build the lunar lander, Peregrine.”
The rocket will also launch the Celestis Enterprise memorial flight, which will carry some of the cremated remains of the creator of Star Trek- along with those of several original cast members-into space.
A successful flight test will set the stage for future ULA missions, including the 2024 launch of Sierra Space’s “Dream Chaser.” The shuttle-like space plane will eventually fly cargo missions to the International Space Station.
Their first mission will also carry a pair of Amazon’s prototype Kuiper Satellites.
ULA already has more than 70 missions booked for the Vulcan Centaur Rocket.
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