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The first launch of the Vulcan rocket is scheduled for Christmas Eve

ULA CEO says first launch of Vulcan rocket scheduled for December

The United Launch Alliance plans to launch the first flight of its Vulcan rocket on Christmas Eve, CEO Tory Bruno told CNBC’s Morgan Brennan on Tuesday.

Bruno, speaking at the CNBC Technology Executive Council Summit, said the target window for Vulcan’s first launches is between December 24 and 26. The rocket will take off from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

ULA is currently working on building and qualifying the rocket’s upper stage and is performing these tasks “in parallel,” Bruno said, with both tasks expected to be “completed in November.”

In the event that ULA misses the December window due to delivery delays or inclement weather, the company – a joint venture of Boeing And Lockheed Martin – will postpone the start to January.

The Vulcan rocket for the Cert-1 mission stands at SLC-41 during testing at Cape Canaveral, Florida, May 12, 2023.

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Vulcan’s first mission will carry a commercial lunar lander built by Astrobotic and a payload for Celestis. The latter will contain the ashes of people who wanted to be buried in space as part of a memorial service.

Previously, ULA had planned for the flight to include two demonstration satellites Amazon’s Project Kuiper, but ULA launched these prototypes separately on a different rocket in early October.

ULA’s path to its first Vulcan launch experienced several delays earlier this year, including the explosion of an engine during testing by its supplier Blue Origin, previously reported by CNBC. After the incident, Bruno told CNBC in a “Manifest Space” podcast interview that the company still plans to have its heavy-lift rocket flying by the end of 2023.

After launching Vulcan, ULA plans to launch “multiple times” in 2024, Bruno said, before increasing the rate to every two weeks by the second half of 2025. Big deficit for Vulcan.

“It changes the nature of our business. It makes it much more balanced. Before, we were probably about 80% in government. And now, with our other commercial work in the Amazon-Kuiper constellation, it’s about 50-50,” Bruno said. “It’s a much healthier place because when one person is out, the other is still doing well.”

—CNBC’s Morgan Brennan and Michael Sheetz contributed to this report.

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