United Launch Alliance modifies launch pad and facilities in advance of first Vulcan Centaur launch this year
(2 February 2021 - ULA) United Launch Alliance (ULA) has modified Space Launch Complex-41 and the processing facilities in support of Vulcan Centaur’s inaugural launch later this year.
The multi-year project to prepare for the larger and more capable launch vehicle culminated in the new mobile launch platform being rolled to the launch pad for final testing.
“Reaching this major milestone required years of hard work and dedication by the entire team to ensure we completed the massive amount of work needed to get the launch pad and facilities ready for a Vulcan Centaur launch,” said Tory Bruno, ULA’s president and CEO. “I am so proud of the team and we are very excited as we count down to Vulcan Centaur’s first flight carrying an extremely cool mission to the moon for our customer Astrobotic.”
At Space Launch Complex-41, numerous modifications include:
- Added Vulcan Centaur 300,000 gallon liquid natural gas (LNG) storage area and removed the Titan catch basin
- Expanded the Acoustic Suppression Water System by installing 28-inch pipes and adding larger water tanks
- Installed new 100,000 gallon Centaur liquid hydrogen (LH2) and 60,000 gallon liquid oxygen (LO2) storage areas
Modifications also have been made to the Vertical Integration Facility (VIF), where rockets are stacked and tested prior to being rolled to the launch pad. These modifications will enable the VIF to handle the 12-foot-diameter Atlas V with up to five Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs) and the 18-foot-diameter Vulcan Centaur rockets with up to six SRBs.
“These modifications were challenging as we needed to complete all of the work at the pad without impacting our customers’ flying Atlas V missions,” said Mark Peller, Vulcan program manager. “We were able to complete this critical work with no impact to our Atlas manifest. To our knowledge, ULA has the first dual-use facilities and launch pad capable of supporting two different launch vehicles, while providing greater flexibility leading up to the first Vulcan Centaur launch and a smooth transition from Atlas to Vulcan Centaur afterward.”
In support of Atlas V and Vulcan Centaur rockets launching from the same pad, ULA partnered with Hensel Phelps to build a new mobile launch platform. The Vulcan Launch Platform (VLP) successfully completed its first trip to the launch pad and will remain there for additional testing and checkout.
The VLP stands 183 feet tall and weighs 1.3 million pounds. It is outfitted with the equipment and umbilicals needed to supply Vulcan Centaur with LNG propellant and liquid oxygen to the first stage, liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen to the Centaur upper stage, conditioned air to customer spacecraft and rocket compartments, electronics, power lines and command-and-control cabling.
Vulcan Centaur is ULA’s next-generation, innovative new launch vehicle that provides higher performance and greater affordability while continuing to deliver unmatched reliability. In 2020, ULA’s Vulcan Centaur was competitively selected by the U.S. Space Force as the best value launch provider for 60 percent of the launches occurring through 2027. Vulcan Centaur is on track for a first launch later this year.
With more than a century of combined heritage, ULA is the nation’s most experienced and reliable launch service provider. ULA has successfully delivered more than 140 missions to orbit that aid meteorologists in tracking severe weather, unlock the mysteries of our solar system, provide critical capabilities for troops in the field, deliver cutting-edge commercial services and enable GPS navigation.