Astrobotic’s Lunar Mission Faces Major Setback: What Went Wrong?

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Astrobotic’s Lunar Mission Ends in Failure

Astrobotic, a Pittsburgh-based space company, experienced a major setback in its inaugural lunar mission. The company had planned to make the first U.S. moon landing in over 50 years but encountered a malfunction shortly after launch, forcing them to call off the landing attempt.

Astrobotic's Peregrine lunar lander

Astrobotic’s Peregrine lunar lander is seen during preparations for launch near NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
United Launch Alliance

A Major Setback

Astrobotic’s lunar lander, named Peregrine, experienced a failure within its propulsion system shortly after launch. The company suspects a leak in the system, causing a rapid depletion of fuel. As a result, the goal now is to get as close to the moon as possible before losing power.

The company had originally planned to attempt a moon landing on February 23rd but has shifted its focus to maximizing the scientific data it can gather instead.

Payloads and Partnerships

Peregrine is carrying 20 payloads, including five for NASA under a 8 million contract. These payloads are intended for government and commercial customers. Astrobotic has already secured over 0 million in government and commercial contracts for future missions.

United Launch Alliance's Vulcan Centaur

United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan Centaur lifts off from Space Launch Complex 41d at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Jan. 8, 2024, carrying Astrobotic’s Peregrine Lunar Lander.
Gregg Newton | AFP | Getty Images

Improvised Solutions

After the propulsion system failure, Astrobotic worked to stabilize the spacecraft and ensure its solar arrays were facing the sun to charge the battery. However, the propellant leak has limited the spacecraft’s stability, and it is expected to lose power by Thursday.

The company is utilizing the remaining power to conduct as many payload and spacecraft operations as possible.

A Continuing Journey

While Peregrine’s mission will not be the first American spacecraft to land on the moon since Apollo 17 in 1972, both Astrobotic and NASA have future attempts planned. This inaugural flight is just the beginning of a series of launches by three different American companies scheduled for this year.

These launches are part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative, which aims to deliver scientific research and cargo to the moon more frequently in support of the agency’s Artemis crew program.

Looking Ahead

Astrobotic remains optimistic despite the setback, expressing gratitude for the support received from the space industry and the public. The company is determined to overcome adversity and continue its mission to explore and expand humanity’s presence in space.

As the space industry continues to evolve and push boundaries, setbacks like this serve as valuable learning experiences that drive innovation and progress.