In a groundbreaking achievement, United Launch Alliance (ULA) has successfully launched its next-generation Vulcan rocket, marking the beginning of a new era in space capabilities. The launch took place on January 8 at 2:18 a.m. EST from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. The Vulcan rocket offers industry-leading capabilities, allowing for the delivery of any payload to any orbit at any time.
Tory Bruno, ULA’s president and CEO, expressed his excitement about the inaugural launch of Vulcan, stating that it brings forth a new and innovative capability to meet the growing demands of space launch. He emphasized that Vulcan will provide high performance and affordability while maintaining ULA’s superior reliability and orbital precision. Bruno also highlighted that Vulcan continues the legacy of Atlas as the world’s only high-energy architecture rocket.
One of the key features of Vulcan is its utilization of the world’s highest-performing upper stage, known as Centaur V. This upper stage provides unmatched flexibility and endurance, enabling complex orbital insertions even in challenging and clandestine orbits. This ensures that ULA maintains its industry-leading legacy of reliability and precision.
Mark Peller, vice president of Vulcan Development, praised the dedication and ingenuity of ULA’s workforce in successfully developing and launching this evolutionary rocket. He emphasized that Vulcan’s purpose-built design incorporates lessons learned from over 120 years of launch experience with Atlas and Delta rockets. This advancement in space capability will provide unprecedented mission flexibility for the nation.
The first certification flight of Vulcan, known as Cert-1, included two payloads. The first payload was Astrobotic’s Peregrine Lunar Lander, Peregrine Mission One (PM1), which is part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative aimed at delivering science and technology to the lunar surface. The second payload was the Celestis Memorial Spaceflights deep space Voyager mission, called the Enterprise Flight.
Cert-1 served as the first of two certification flights required for the U.S. Space Force’s certification process. The second certification mission, Cert-2, is scheduled to launch in the coming months. Following that, the first Vulcan mission to support national security space will be launched in the summer.
Looking ahead, ULA aims to achieve a bi-weekly launch rate to meet the manifest requirements of its customers. The company is also focused on developing future upgrades for Vulcan, including SMART reuse plans for downrange recovery of Vulcan engines.
To date, ULA has already sold more than 70 Vulcan launches, with 38 missions dedicated to Amazon’s Project Kuiper and multiple national security space launch missions as part of the country’s Phase 2 launch procurement. This highlights the strong demand and confidence in ULA’s Vulcan rocket.