The launch campaign for the inaugural flight of the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Vulcan rocket is underway with initial stacking operations in the Vertical Integration Facility (VIF) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.
Launch site preps for the Certification-1 (Cert-1) flight comes amid completion and shipment of the Centaur V upper stage from ULA's rocket manufacturing factory. Centaur V departed Decatur, Alabama aboard the R/S RocketShip vessel on Nov. 5 for delivery to Cape Canaveral to be integrated onto the inaugural Vulcan.
Stacking operations began Oct. 26 when the brightly painted Vulcan booster stage was hoisted vertically and positioned on the Vulcan Launch Platform (VLP) at the VIF. The LVOS milestone is the traditional kickoff of any launch campaign.
A pair of GEM 63XL solid rocket boosters were added to the sides of the first stage on Oct. 31 and Nov. 6. Together, they will provide nearly half of the 2 million pounds (8.9 kilo-Newtons) of thrust and augment the power generated by the two BE-4 methane-fueled main engines at liftoff.
The Cert-1 launch is a flight test of ULA's next generation rocket. The mission will send the commercial Astrobotic Peregrine lander to the Moon as part of NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative and carry a Celestis memorial payload into deep space. The lunar launch window to perform the mission opens Dec. 24.