What to Expect From the ULA’s Vulcan Centaur Launch

It's a big deal for spaceflight

ULA Vulcan rocket
The ULA's Vulcan rocket.
United Launch Alliance

On May 4, Engadget reports, the United Launch Alliance will send a Vulcan Centaur rocket into space for the first time. It’s another milestone for the growing array of private companies venturing into space. You might wonder what’s different about this particular mission — or what implication this might have for other upcoming missions into space. Here are some answers to some of the questions you might have.

What is the United Launch Alliance?

The United Launch Alliance — or ULA — is a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin. The company has existed since 2006, and its website notes that the company has had “more than 150 consecutive launches since 2006.”

What will be on the first Vulcan Centaur launched into space?

As per Engadget’s reporting, the Peregrine lunar lander, created by Astrobiotic Technology. The lander, in turn, will be carrying equipment designed to run tests on the lunar surface for NASA. Specifically, NASA notes that it will “study the lunar exosphere, thermal properties and hydrogen abundance of the lunar regolith, magnetic fields, and the radiation environment.”

NASA won’t be the only entity represented on the launch. SpaceNews also reports that the Vulcan Centaur rocket will carry satellites for Amazon’s Project Kuiper and something from Celestis, the company that will send your ashes into space.

How long has this launch been in the works?

Preparation began over a month ago. On January 25, 2023, the first stage of the Vulcan rocket was readied for its launch position.

What’s the big deal about the Vulcan Centaur?

It represents the ULA’s next generation of rockets. If this flight goes according to plan, you’ll see a lot more of it in the coming years, as opposed to the Atlas and Delta rockets that ULA has previously used.

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What are the best drinks to have on hand for a Vulcan Centaur launch party?

Right about here is where it’s worth mentioning that May 4 is the beginning of a four-day launch window. In other words, if conditions aren’t great on May 4 but they are on May 6, this rocket will likely be going up on May 6.

That said, there are cocktails with names alluding to both Vulcan and centaurs, which could make for a fun occasion.

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