Building on a legacy of reliable launch vehicles and flight-proven hardware, United Launch Alliance is progressing towards initial launch capability for their next generation rocket, Vulcan. The latest milestones include tests, reviews, and the fabrication of flight hardware for the first mission, which is – as confirmed by ULA this week – on track to occur no earlier than April 2021.
The completion of the system-level Critical Design Review has set the stage for hardware qualification. This was the final review for the design of the Vulcan Centaur, the initial configuration in which Vulcan will fly. The United States Air Force was represented in this review as part of the certification process required for Vulcan to launch national security missions.
The first pieces of flight hardware are now taking shape at ULA’s rocket factory in Decatur, Alabama. This includes aluminum panels for the rocket’s first stage liquid oxygen tank.
Work on Vulcan’s Centaur V upper stage has also begun with the installation of two welding stations in Decatur. Six of these stations will be used to fabricate Centaur V and potentially ACES hardware. The stations are located in a former Delta Cryogenic Second Stage assembly hall that was used to ...