- United Launch Alliance plans to launch the inaugural flight of its Vulcan rocket on Christmas Eve, CEO Torey Bruno told CNBC on Tuesday.
- ULA is currently working on building and qualifying the upper stage of the rocket, and is performing these tasks “in parallel,” Bruno said, with both expected to be “completed in November.”
- If ULA misses the December window due to shipping delays or bad weather, the company will push the launch to January.
United Launch Alliance plans to launch the inaugural flight of its Vulcan rocket on Christmas Eve, CEO Torey Bruno told CNBC’s Morgan Brennan on Tuesday.
Bruno, who was speaking at CNBC’s Technology Executive Board Summit, said the target period for the first Vulcan launch is between December 24 and 26. The rocket will launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
ULA is currently working on building and qualifying the upper stage of the rocket, and is performing these tasks “in parallel,” Bruno said, with both expected to be “completed in November.”
If ULA misses the December date due to shipping delays or bad weather, the company — a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin — will push the launch back to January.
A Vulcan rocket for the Cert-1 mission stands at SLC-41 during testing at Cape Canaveral, Florida, on May 12, 2023.
United Launch Alliance
The first Vulcan mission will carry a commercial lunar lander built by Astrobotic and payload for the Celestis rover. The latter will contain the ashes of people who wanted to be buried in space as part of a memorial service.
Previously, ULA had intended for the flight to include two experimental satellites for Amazon’s Kuiper Project, but ULA launched those models separately on a different rocket in early October.
ULA’s path to the first Vulcan launch encountered several delays earlier this year, including an engine explosion during testing by its supplier Blue Origin, CNBC previously reported. After the accident, Bruno told CNBC in a “Manifest Space” podcast interview that the company still plans to launch its heavy rocket by late 2023.
Once Vulcan is launched, ULA plans to launch “several times” in 2024, before rising to a rate of every two weeks by the second half of 2025, Bruno said. The company has added a massive contract to launch Amazon Kuiper satellites to its former government company. Heavy buildup for Vulcan.
“It changes the nature of our business,” Bruno said. “It makes it more balanced. Before, we were probably 80% government. Now with our other businesses in the Amazon Kuiper constellation, it’s about 50-50.” “This is a healthier place to be, because when one is out, the other one is still okay.”
CNBC’s Morgan Brennan and Michael Sheetz contributed to this report.
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