from Reuters shows that this is the debut of the Vulcan rocket.
This line is priced at about $110 million per launch. When
successful it will offer an American made alternative to the Russian
engines commonly used in the industry. The delay from end of 2022
was at the request of Astrobotic.
shows the Mass Properties and Vibe Test. The former weighs the
vehicle and determines the location of the Center of Mass and various
inertial properties. These are needed for the attitude control
system. The second test is to shake the hardware to test its
strength for withstanding launch.
The rocket stack used for our launch will be a Vulcan booster powered by two BE-4 engines from Blue Origin
, and the upper stage will be a Centaur V.
These are new motors that run on Methane (LNG), and have more thrust
that the Space Shuttle Main Engines. Once operational, they will
replace the ones that are normally bought from the Russians, and that
will be very good in these uncertain political times.
March 2023 - First Stage (Booster) Tanking Test
The tanking system of this brand new rocket design was tested at launch pad LC41 and described in this update
. A nice video summarizing the tests and a glance at the payloads is here
April 2023 - Upper Stage Tank Test
shows a explosion during a test of the Centaur V upper stage tank.
This may be cause for delay. The launch window will be in monthly
intervals due to the Lunar flight trajectory. Indeed in early
May, we received an email update that launch would be delayed from the
May 2023 date.
June 2023 - BE-4 Test Fire
On June 7 2023, the twin BE-4 engines running on Methane were test
fired successfully on the launch pad. This is clearly an
important milestone to launch. In the next step, I would expect
to next hear that Astrobotic can ship Peregrine to the Cape for launch.
October 26 2023 - Installing the Booster Stage
ULA posted this sequence on their Twitter page
to show the Booster with the twin BE-4 engines being raised onto the pad.
Sequence made using ezgif.com of the
Booster being raised onto the pad.
October 27 2023 - Shipping to the Cape
After a long delay due to the upper stage issue on the Centaur,
the Peregrine spacecraft was loaded onto a truck and shipped to the
Kennedy Space Center.
We saw the booster being raised onto the pad in the image above,
and ULA released an image of the Centaur V upper stage this
month. It gets stacked on top of the
booster, and then Peregrine will be stacked on top of that. At
the pad, the booster will be ignited first, and carry the whole stack
aloft. It will then be dropped, and the upper stage takes over
pushing Peregrine to the Moon.
Centaur V upper stage. Image from here
In this same month, Astrobotic sent out invites for the launch party. It also included a link to the info packet
Note that the Aruba sand will be sent via the Moonbox program.
The landing spot has been changed from Lacus Mortis to "Gruithuisen Domes
". This area was named after the German astronomer Franz von Gruithuisen
Centaur V uppper stage being stacked on top of the Vulcan booster.
This is event is known as LVOS
. Launch Vehicle on Stand.
Image from here
Also this month, NASA announced that two Goddard-led development teams would fly on Peregrine. These are the Laser Retroreflector Array (LRA) and Peregrine Ion-Trap Mass Spectrometer (PITMS). For more information, see here.
Early in this month, they performed a Wet Dress Rehearsal
(WDR). This is where the rocket is tanked to check for
leaks. As you can see here with the tweet from Tory Bruno (ULA
President) it all went well and launch date is now set for Jan 8, 2024.
Tweet announcing the launch date of Jan 8 2024.
Later this same month, Astrobotics sent out an update
showing the spacecraft mounted onto the payload adapter. The
update also disclosed that the anticipated landing date on the Moon
will be February 23, 2024. This payload adapter is custom made
for this spacecraft so that it can be bolted onto the Centaur V upper
This video released December 22
, 2023 shows the entire rocket complete and ready for launch.
Here you see Peregrine encapsulated in its fairing being
stacked onto upper stage.