Historic Mission Stumbles with Propulsion System Anomaly
Astrobotic’s ambitious Peregrine moon lander, part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program, encountered a setback after a successful launch on United Launch Alliance’s new Vulcan Centaur rocket. The mission aimed for the first-ever moon landing by a private spacecraft but faced complications shortly after deployment.
First-Ever Snap in Space Holds Clues
The first image captured by Peregrine’s camera in space has provided crucial insights into the anomaly affecting the spacecraft. Mounted atop a payload deck, the photo reveals a disturbance in the Multi-Layer Insulation (MLI), aligning with telemetry data pointing to a propulsion system anomaly. Astrobotic believes this anomaly is the reason for the lander’s failure to orient itself for solar panel charging.
Critical Loss of Propellant and Alternative Mission Scenarios
The propulsion system anomaly resulted in a critical loss of propellant, casting doubt on the initial target of the first private spacecraft moon landing around February 23. Astrobotic is now exploring alternative mission scenarios to salvage the mission.
Hope Amid Challenges
Despite the setback, there is a glimmer of hope as the mission team successfully fully charged Peregrine’s battery. The team is leveraging the available power to continue payload and spacecraft operations.
CLPS Program’s Lunar Research Goals
Peregrine’s mission was a part of NASA’s CLPS program, aiming to advance lunar research ahead of crewed visits to the moon under NASA’s Artemis program. The setback with Peregrine highlights the challenges associated with private space exploration.
Next CLPS Mission on the Horizon
While Peregrine faces challenges, the CLPS program presses on, with the next mission scheduled for next month. Houston-based Intuitive Machines’ Nova-C is set to launch atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.