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Vulcan launchpad static fire engine test aborted

ULA engineers were forced yesterday to abort their first attempt to complete a launchpad static fire engine test of the first stage of the company’s new Vulcan rocket due to an issue with “the booster’s ignition system.”

[D]uring the countdown at Launch Complex 41 Thursday afternoon, ULA teams “observed a delayed response from the booster engine ignition system,” the company said in a statement. The issue meant that countdown procedures ahead of the ignition of two Blue Origin-built BE-4 engines at the business end of the company’s new rocket had to be halted.

The roughly 200-foot rocket will have to be rolled back into ULA’s nearly 300-foot protective Vertical Integration Facility for technicians to assess the booster’s ignition system.

It will obviously be necessary to attempt this static fire test again before attaching the rocket’s solid-fueled side boosters, which suggests the launch’s tentative target date in June is likely threatened.

These kinds of issues are not unexpected prior to a rocket’s first launch. ULA however is now paying for the three-plus year delay imposed on it by Blue Origin’s delays in delivering the BE-4 engines used in that first stage. These pre-launch tests had been planned for 2020, not 2023. Let us hope that ULA engineers don’t rush these tests now, because of those Blue Origin delays.

Conscious Choice cover

Now available in hardback and paperback as well as ebook!


From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.


“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.


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  • Concerned

    When all else fails, they’re gonna have to resort to a Vulcan mind meld.
    Paging Mr. Spock.

  • Edward

    Let us hope that ULA engineers don’t rush these tests now, because of those Blue Origin delays.

    I don’t get the impression that ULA is suffering from launch fever. I think that they are committed to a successful launch.

    SpaceX, on the other hand, is in the development phase of its Starship, and they do have launch fever. Rather than wait for the perfect test article and the most up-to-date launch pad plating and water deluge system, they are willing to test what they have now in order to learn the other, unexpected, problems. All the delays with SLS are why it worked on its first flight, and the “go fever” on the Starship test unit are why it did not reach orbit on its first flight — and why the launch pad was so greatly damaged. Starship is trying new ideas and trying impossible ideas and can afford mishaps during development, but Vulcan cannot afford mishaps during operations.

    ULA is doing what NASA did with SLS, the opposite of what SpaceX is doing with Starship, working out the bugs before launch so that their customers can trust this rocket, showing on its flight that it is operational. Vulcan is no longer in development; it is supposed to be in operational condition. This means it must work successfully from this point onward. This is what these final tests are intended to do, assure the company that Vulcan is ready to successfully launch from now on. As with all other operational flights, if that means a delay, then delayed it must be.

    Virgin Orbit’s mishap was the proximate (not root) cause of its demise. ULA does not want a similar disaster to happen to them.

  • pawn

    Agree with Edward.

    ULA is in a tight spot on several fronts and needs to toe the line on keeping Murphy at bay as much as possible.

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