WASHINGTON — The first launch of United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan Centaur is likely to be delayed to early January to give the company time to complete a full dress rehearsal.

In a social media post Dec. 10, Tory Bruno, chief executive of ULA, said the company was not able to complete a practice countdown called a wet dress rehearsal (WDR) two days earlier at Cape Canaveral. During the WDR, the Vulcan booster and its Centaur upper stage were loaded with propellants and went through a countdown that would stop just before engine ignition.

Bruno said that while the vehicle performed well during that countdown, there were some “routine” issues with ground equipment. “Ran the timeline long so we didn’t quite finish,” he said. “I’d like a FULL WDR before our first flight, so XMAS eve is likely out.”

ULA has been working towards a launch Dec. 24 at 1:49 a.m. Eastern. That timing was driven by the vehicle’s primary payload, the Peregrine lunar lander build by Astrobotic. There were additional launch windows on Dec. 25 and 26 that, like Dec. 24, were instantaneous launch opportunities.

Bruno said that the next launch period would open Jan. 8 that would also be in the overnight hours. That period will probably be four days long, he stated on social media. Neither ULA nor Astrobotic has previously disclosed a specific date for the next launch opportunity if the launch did not take place in December.

There had been speculation that the launch might be postponed given the lack of updates from ULA during the test itself or afterwards. Astrobotic, assuming the launch remained on schedule, started a series of social media posts about the payloads on the Peregrine lander Dec. 10 “with T-14 days until launch.”

ULA had not reported any issues with Vulcan launch preparations before the wet dress rehearsal. Bruno, in a call with reporters Nov. 15, said the company was at the time a couple days ahead of schedule in launch preparations.

In a Nov. 29 NASA media call about the science on Peregrine, John Thornton, chief executive of Astrobotic, said the company had accepted the risks of launching on the inaugural flight of a new rocket.

“We’re attempting a launch and landing on the surface of the moon for a fraction of what it would otherwise cost. With that, we have to strike the right balance of risk and reward,” he said. “We did take some risk on the launch going with a new vehicle, but we are comforted with the fact that it is United Launch Alliance and they have a really stellar track record of success.”

“We are very confident on that launch, but I can tell you I’ll be on the edge of my seat on that launch,” he added.

The revised schedule means there could be two launches of lunar landers from Cape Canaveral within the same week. Intuitive Machines is preparing for a Jan. 12 launch of IM-1, its first Nova-C lunar lander, on a SpaceX Falcon 9. The company said Dec. 4 that the lander had arrived at a processing facility at Cape Canaveral.

Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...