A powerful new rocket is all stacked up.
The Vulcan Centaur, a next-generation booster from long-time rocket maker United Launch Alliance (ULA), has been assembled at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida ahead of its debut launch, which is targeted to take place in the next few months.
Stacking occurred on Jan. 25 and Jan. 26. Testing of the rocket stages, launch platform and ground systems are expected "over the next few weeks" before Vulcan rolls out to the launch pad for fuel loading and countdown practice, ULA officials wrote in a blog post on Monday (Feb. 6).
Once that's all done, Vulcan will complete ground testing with a simulated countdown and a brief firing of its main engines to get it ready for its first mission, called Certification Flight-1.
Embarking on a bold new era to broaden affordable access to space, the inaugural ULA #VulcanRocket now stands assembled at its Florida launch site for pre-flight testing! #CountdowntoVulcanRead more in the blog: https://t.co/Nx7YazbXiz pic.twitter.com/rohxGf3QOoFebruary 6, 2023
Vulcan Centaur is a 202-foot-tall (67 meters) rocket equipped with a Centaur V upper stage and up to six solid rocket boosters. The first stage is powered by two BE-4 methane-liquid oxygen engines built by Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos' spaceflight company.
Certification-1 is tentatively targeted for the first quarter of 2023. The mission will loft two demonstration satellites for Amazon's Project Kuiper broadband constellation, along with a Celestis Memorial Spaceflight payload and a commercial moon lander called Peregrine.
Pittsburgh-based company Astrobotic, the maker of Peregrine, is aiming to be one of the first private outfits to land on the moon in 2023; given several missions are en route or readying for lunar launch, it is hard to predict if Peregrine will be first on the surface.
Elizabeth Howell is the co-author of "Why Am I Taller?" (ECW Press, 2022; with Canadian astronaut Dave Williams), a book about space medicine. Follow her on Twitter @howellspace. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.
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Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for Space.com for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace