United Launch Alliance canceled the first-ever engine test of its new Vulcan Centaur rocket at the launch pad in Florida on Thursday (May 25) due to a technical problem with the booster.
The Vulcan Centaur rocket’s engine test, called a ready-to-fly launch, was scheduled for 6 p.m. EDT (2200 GMT) at Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. But two hours before the test, the United Launch Alliance (ULA) announced that it would back off.
“During the countdown, the team noted a delayed response from the boost engine ignition system that needed further review before proceeding with the flight-ready launch,” ULA officials wrote. Twitter update.
The first stage of the Vulcan Centaur rocket was then returned to the Vertical Integration Facility hangar for further review.
“The team will continue to review the data and determine when Vulcan Rocket can return to the platform to perform a flight readiness launch,” ULA wrote in a letter. Follow up update.
Related: The Vulcan Centaur Rocket: The Space Backbone of Tomorrow
ULA CEO and President Tory Bruno said on Twitter that there appears to be a problem with the Blue Origin-built BE-4 engines that power the Vulcan Centaur first stage. “We’re testing the BE4 ignition system in action,” Bruno wrote on Thursday. “The timing and response just didn’t feel right. You need to understand that.”
ULA has been working on a static firing test of its Vulcan Centaur rocket throughout the month of May. Last week, the company rolled the missile to the pad for testing early Monday (May 22), only to return it to its hangar for additional testing. She was back on the podium by Wednesday for her planned test on Thursday.
If the eventual steady fire and Vulcan movie go smoothly, the first launch of the rocket will be its next major milestone. Bruno did it before Shown Sometime in June or July as the earliest possible launch date for Vulcan, with launch windows available 4 to 5 days Per month. This schedule is based on the success of the upcoming static fire test.
ULA previously completed a successful tank test on the company’s new Vulcan on May 12, filling the rocket with more than 1 million pounds of fuel during the test. ULA engineers then evaluated the refueling test results against Vulcan design expectations.
Two days after the successful landing, Bruno signaled on May 15th tweet That the tests were “good,” but that teams will make some parameter adjustments before firing Vulcan’s first steady fire. This milestone moved Vulcan one step closer to its first launch, leaving only a static test launch of the engines and a rehearsal to validate the vehicle.
The BE-4 rocket’s main booster engines use liquefied natural gas (LNG) and liquid oxygen for fuel, and will be capable of producing more than half a million pounds of thrust at liftoff. Vulcan’s Centaur V second stage RL10 engines are powered by liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen.
The 202-foot (62-meter) Vulcan Centaur will be able to lift 7.7 tons (7 metric tons) of payload into geostationary orbit, more than 22,000 miles (36,000 km) above Earth. The missile is designed to replace the veteran Atlas V and Delta IV launch vehicles that have been in service for two decades.
Already, NASA has added Vulcan to its rocket lineup for future missions. Amazon also contracted with ULA to launch 38 Vulcans to support the deployment of the Project Kuiper communications satellite constellation.
Editor’s note: This story was updated May 26 to reflect the cancellation of a static test firing of the ULA Vulcan Centaur missile on May 25. Space.com Editor-in-Chief Tarek Malik contributed to this report.
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