United Launch Alliance, Astrobotic prepared for early Monday liftoff to the moon


The countdown to launch is on. United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan Centaur rocket has been rolled to the launch pad at Cape Canaveral Area Drive Station forward of its early Monday morning launch, a mission that would finish with the primary absolutely personal spacecraft touchdown on the moon.

Vulcan’s main payload is Astrobotic’s Peregrine lunar lander. If all goes to plan, Peregrine will embark on a journey to the moon over the span of round 1.5 months, earlier than trying to land on the floor on February 23. The 2 corporations had been concentrating on a Christmas Eve launch, however ULA determined to postpone because of floor system points.

“In case you’ve been following the lunar trade, you perceive touchdown on the Moon’s floor is extremely tough,” Astrobotic CEO John Thornton stated in a press launch final month. “With that stated, our workforce has repeatedly surpassed expectations and demonstrated unimaginable ingenuity throughout flight opinions, spacecraft testing, and main {hardware} integrations.

“We’re prepared for launch, and for touchdown.”

ULA and Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic usually are not the one corporations with a lot driving on Monday’s launch. This may also be the primary time Blue Origin’s BE-4 rocket engines take flight on Vulcan’s first-stage booster (after years of delays), and the primary mission as a part of NASA’s program to kickstart payload supply to the lunar floor.

That program, Industrial Lunar Payload Providers (CLPS), has collectively doled out a whole bunch of tens of millions to spur personal improvement of moon landers. For this mission, Astrobotic was awarded $79.5 million from NASA in 2019.

The mission is slated to take off at 2:18 AM ET Monday. NASA will livestream the mission on its Youtube channel.

The launch would be the first of many heading to the moon this yr. Different lunar launches slated for 2024 embrace Intuitive Machines IM-1 lander, which is scheduled for liftoff on a SpaceX Falcon 9 in February; Japanese agency ispace’s second lunar mission (their first lander crashed into the lunar floor shortly earlier than landing); and Firefly Aerospace’s Blue Ghost lander within the third quarter of 2024. (Each Intuitive Machines’ and Firefly’s missions are a part of the CLPS program.)

With such a lineup, it’s extremely seemingly that 2024 would be the yr {that a} personal firm lands a spacecraft on the moon for the primary time, and the primary time an American entity has gone to the lunar floor since 1972.

Astrobotic will try and land Peregrine close to a area of the moon generally known as the Gruithuisen Domes, and it is going to be delivering a handful of NASA payloads and scientific devices that can endeavor to higher perceive the lunar setting. Peregrine may also be delivering round 15 non-NASA payloads, together with a rover from Carnegie Mellon College and a robotic undertaking referred to as Coleman from the Mexican Area Company.


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