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Private Peregrine moon lander is stacked on ULA Vulcan rocket ahead of Jan. 8 launch

The Peregrine lunar lander has completed all its launch milestones and has been stacked atop the Vulcan Centaur rocket that will carry it to space. 

The launch of the first United Launch Alliance (ULA) Vulcan Centaur rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida, is set for Jan. 8, 2024, with Astrobotic's Peregrine lunar lander expected to attempt a landing on the moon on Feb. 23, 2024.   

The landing will make history as not only is Peregrine Astrobotic’s first lander mission, but this is also (possibly) set to be the first time a private spacecraft has set down on the moon, pending the progress of other missions as well (such as an Intuitive Machines launch aboard SpaceX set for no earlier than mid-February.)

Though Peregrine has come through three weeks of important final checks and fueling needed to be achieved prior to launch, there is a whole new set of milestones for the spacecraft to clear after blast-off. 

These will begin shortly after launch when the lander will separate from its Vulcan rocket carrier and will power on, following which it will establish communication with ground control on Earth. This communication will flow through the NASA Deep Space Network system to the Astrobotic mission control center in Pittsburgh, allowing Peregrine's operators to determine its position, orientation, and operating health.

Following this and around 40 minutes after separation, ground control will begin sending commands to the lunar lander's propulsion system. One of the first series of commands will tell the thrusters to reorientate Peregrine so its energy-harvesting solar panels are directed toward the sun, allowing them to start powering up the spacecraft's battery.

The team at Astrobotic will then perform maneuvers in Earth's orbit that prepare Peregrine for insertion into an orbit around the moon. The spacecraft will maintain a stable lunar orbit, performing system checks before heading for a historic touchdown at the end of February.

Follow Pegasus Aerospace System on Twitter @systemaerospace. Follow us on Twitter @systemaerospace or Facebook, Linkedin and Instagram @pegasusaerospace.

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