ULA plans to unveil its newest launcher later this year from the same launchpad that it launches its Atlas V rocket from. Building on top of their already successful line of launchers and using Blue Origin’s methane-powered BE-4 engines, ULA conducted a crucial test and rolled out the brand new launch mount it will be attached to for the first time.
ULA’s newest rocket, Vulcan Centaur, is planned to replace both of its launchers inherited from Boeing and Lockheed Martin when the company was formed. This will offer the best of both rockets, allowing for heavy launch capabilities like the Delta IV and the reliability of the Atlas V. ULA has been the backbone of the military and other government satellite launches since its inception and the new Vulcan rocket will continue to bring that expertise into its future.
The 183 foot tall and 1.3 million pound mount was built over the last year and outfitted with all the data cables, fuel lines, and other connectors it will need to provide support to the Vulcan Centaur rocket during launch operations. The mount was rolled out last Friday and left the Spaceflight Processing Operations Center (SPOC) on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station and rolled to SLC-41 on rails similar to how the Atlas’ launch mount is moved.
Dubbed the Vulcan Launch Platform, it looks identical to the Mobile Launch Platform which carries the Atlas but contains the changes needed to support the new launcher as it pushes ULA further to more cost-effective launch services compared to SpaceX.
ULA plans to launch their first Vulcan rocket from Cape Canaveral later this year carrying Astrobotic’s Peregrine commercial lunar lander to the Moon, which is part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload service. Before that, ULA will bring a pathfinder rocket to the cape and will be used to test fueling operations on the pad before the first flight-ready Vulcan arrives.