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ULA Completes Vulcan Tanking Test, WDR Next

The United Launch Alliance (ULA) team has completed the next phase of testing in preparation for the inaugural Vulcan rocket flight.

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Zac Aubert

Zac Aubert

Fri Mar 17 2023Written by Zac Aubert

The United Launch Alliance (ULA) team has completed the next phase of testing in preparation for the inaugural Vulcan rocket flight. The team achieved tanking demonstrations at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, validating the performance of the stages, Vulcan Launch Platform, Space Launch Complex-41 facilities, and ground support systems.

The tests were performed on separate days, with the Vulcan first stage and Centaur V upper stage being filled with cryogenic propellant. The tests also verified countdown steps, procedures, and timelines.

Both tests were successfully performed with Vulcan booster stage testing on March 10 and Centaur V on March 16.

The launch console operators initiated the countdown to power up the rocket, perform testing, and complete final configurations for cryogenic propellant loading. During the planned countdown hold, the launch pad was verified clear of all personnel, and the authorization was given to proceed with tanking the rocket. The transfer lines at the pad and the flight hardware underwent chill-down procedures to thermally condition equipment against the harsh temperature shock of the propellants. Once that was achieved, the cryogenics began flowing into the rocket. The Vulcan booster uses liquefied natural gas (LNG) and liquid oxygen, while Centaur V is powered by liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen.

A shift change in the control room saw the Detanking and Securing Team take over to drain the propellants back into the pad storage tanks, safe the rocket, and power it down. Engineers will review the tanking test data collected and information gained in test objectives aimed at characterizing the performance of hardware and confirming analytical predictions.

With the tanking tests now accomplished, the Vulcan Launch Platform will disengage from the pad systems for transport of the Vulcan rocket to the Vertical Integration Facility (VIF).

The next step in the countdown to the inaugural launch includes conducting a Wet Dress Rehearsal (WDR) to practice the day-of-launch activities and then performing a Flight Readiness Firing (FRF) to complete the full Terminal Countdown sequence, ignite the engines, and demonstrate a hot-fire abort recycle and safing.