CAPE CANAVERAL SPACE FORCE — As an early gift to space lovers, the United Launch Alliance is aiming the Vulcan Centaur rocket’s maiden launch on Christmas Eve of this year.

What You Need To Know

  • The Dec. 24’s liftoff will be at Space Launch Complex 41 at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station

  • It will launch two payloads: Astrobotic's commercial lunar lander and Celestis, a company that specializes in space burials

ULA’s CEO Tory Bruno confirmed on Tuesday the inaugural flight is set one day before Christmas and said the company is waiting on two things: The Vulcan’s upper stage needs to be finished being built and sent to Florida and the company is waiting for some qualification testing. Both are scheduled to be done in November.

“The booster is already there (in Florida), ready to go,” Bruno told NBC. “And the reason why it’s Christmas Eve is because of science, orbital mechanics.”

Bruno continued that the Vulcan Centaur’s inaugural flight will have two payloads: Astrobotic, which will carry a commercial lunar lander. And a payload for Celestis, which will contain the ashes of people who wanted to be buried in space.

“But it’s the lunar mission that drives (the launch). We are going to the part of the moon where they need carefully controlled lighting conditions and they also have to stay in radio communication with the deep-space network, which are giant receivers and transmitters here on Earth. And when you put the two together, we just get a few days every month.”

So that means the launch must take place either Dec. 24, 25 or 26, he said. Bruno explained that if there is any type of shipping or weather delay, the next launch attempt will be January 2024.

Speaking of next year, Bruno said ULA — a joint Lockheed Martin and Boeing business venture — plans to have more launches in 2024 and if all goes well, every other week by the second half of 2025.

ULA has been making the rounds in the Space Coast, such as launching the SILENTBARKER mission for the National Reconnaissance Office and the U.S. Space Force’s Space Systems Command in August and earlier this month, Amazon’s Project Kuiper satellites.

ULA’s Vulcan Centaur rocket is set to be the successor of the company’s two popular rockets: The Atlas V and the Delta IV.

The Dec. 24 liftoff will be at Space Launch Complex 41 at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

Bruno sent out on X, formerly known as Twitter, that the launch will take place at 12:30 a.m. ET.


Facebook Twitter