Delayed rockets from ULA and Europe edge closer to launch

Delayed rockets from ULA and Europe edge closer to launch

It’s been a tough year for rockets trying to fly for the first time. Two of the newest additions to medium-to-heavy launchers, Ariane 6 and Vulcan Centaur, are struggling to debut, which has suffered multiple delays over the past three years. There is, however, hope that their inaugural launches will get back on track.

After missing his maiden flight on May 4 due to a test bed explosion, things were looking pretty bleak for United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan rocket. The company deployed its heavy rocket to the launch pad for pre-launch testing on Thursday with plans to launch it this summer, ULA chief executive Tory Bruno said. writing on Twitter.

The 202-foot-tall (62-meter) fully expendable rocket has been in development since 2014. Colorado-based ULA originally planned to launch Vulcan in 2020, but the very the expected debut of the rocket has suffered multiple delays. The rocket’s first stage is powered by two BE-4 engines built by Blue Origin, which were delivered more than four years late.

Earlier this year, the two-stage Vulcan Centaur rocket rolled out to the launch pad for testing ahead of its launch. maiden flight. On March 29, ULA was pressurizing the upper stage of the Vulcan rocket when a spark ignited a fireball on the test bed at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama. The explosion derailed the company’s plans to launch Vulcan on May 4.

The rocket is intended to replace ULA’s Atlas V and Delta IV rockets, which have been in use for two decades. Vulcan Centaur is designed to lift 27.2 metric tons (60,000 pounds) in low Earth orbit and 6.5 metric tons (14,300 pounds) in geosynchronous orbit (in comparison, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 can carry 22.8 metric tons to LEO.)

For its first mission, Vulcan will carry Astrobotic’s Peregrine Lunar Lander, which, on behalf of NASA, will attempt to deliver 11 payloads to the surface of the Moon. The rocket will also attempt to deliver the first two Amazon Kuiper Internet satellites in low Earth orbit. If its first mission goes well, ULA hopes to schedule another Vulcan launch this year for Sierra Space’s Dream Chaser mission.

The company is also under contract to carry out 35 missions for the US Space Force within the next five years, but must complete two Vulcan flights in order to be certified to launch US military and intelligence satellites.

Artist’s impression of Ariane 6.
Drawing: ESA

Arianespace has had its share misfortunes of the beginnings of the rocket, without a massive explosion. The next-generation Ariane 6 rocket was also originally scheduled to lift off in 2020, but was later pushed back to 2022 and is now likely targeted for early 2024.

On Friday, the European Space Agency (ESA) shared its latest update on the heavy launcher. The rocket is currently undergoing flight qualification tests and will be transported to its launch site in French Guinea in November where it will be assembled.

In an earnings call on Wednesday, an executive at German aerospace company OHB, a supplier of Ariane 6, predicted the rocket’s maiden flight would likely take place in the early months of next year, SpaceNews reported.

The 197-foot-tall (60-meter) rocket is designed to lift 10 metric tons toward LEO, 4.5 tonnes to sun-synchronous (SSO) orbital altitudes up to 800 km (500 miles) and over 10.5 tonnes to geostationary transfer (GEO) orbits.

Ariane 6 is intended to replace its predecessor, Ariane 5, which is no longer in production. Ariane 5 is scheduled for four more launches this year before officially retiring, leaving Europe with little or no options for putting its satellites into orbit.

Arianespace is developing the rocket on behalf of ESA, and the space agency really needs to see this new rocket fly. Europe scrambled to find rockets after it cut ties with Russia after its invasion of Ukraine, even turn to American companies like SpaceX for the use of its Falcon 9 rocket.

Even before its first lift-off, the highly anticipated rocket already has a full launch schedule coming through 2029. Earlier this year, Amazon reserve the Ariane 6 rocket for 18 launches for its Project Kuiper internet satellites. Ariane 6 should also deliver ESA missions Galileo global navigation satellite system through several launches, the Meteosat weather satellites, Earth Return Orbiter for the Mars sample return missionand the next PLATO space telescope, among others.

The pressure is high for these two big rockets to finally launch into the Earth’s atmosphere after a series of unfortunate delays.

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