ULA delays first launch of Vulcan to June at the earliest

Peregrine landing site

An official from Astrobotics confirmed this week that an explosion during testing of the Centaur upper stage of its new Vulcan rocket will delay that rocket’s first launch for at least one to two months, from May to June or July.

On March 29, Tory Bruno, the CEO of Colorado-based spacecraft makers United Launch Alliance LLC, announced on his personal Twitter account that ULA’s Vulcan Centaur V rocket had experienced “an anomaly,” which preceded a tweet he shared on April 13 that showed a video of an explosion that occurred outside of a testing rig that housed the ULA rocket. He alluded to a hydrogen-related leak as being a possible culprit and in response the next day to other replies, Bruno said in a tweet that “June/July” will be the next earliest estimated launch timeline.

That timeline is the same one that John Thornton, CEO of North Side-based Astrobotic, shared during a speech as part of a kickoff event for the Aviation and Robotics Summit in the Strip District on Tuesday.

The main payload on that Vulcan inaugural launch is Astrobotic’s Peregrine lunar lander, carrying several NASA science instruments to the Gruithusien Domes region on the Moon, as indicated by the white dot on the picture above.

Astrobotic gets ESA’s first commercially purchased lunar lander payload

Capitalism in space: Astrobotic yesterday announced that the European Space Agency (ESA) has purchased payload space on the company’s Griffin lunar lander for a commercially produced camera.

This is the first commercial payload ESA has purchased for a lunar mission. The camera will fly as a secondary payload on Griffin’s first mission, which will deliver NASA’s VIPER rover to the Moon’s south pole in 2024. The camera is being built by a French startup called Lunar Logistics Services.

Commercial lunar mission gives launch contract to ULA

Capitalism in space: Astrobotic, a private company planning to put a lander on the Moon by 2019, has awarded its launch contract to ULA.

This initial Peregrine lunar lander will fly 77 pounds (35 kilograms) of customer payloads from six nations either above or below the spacecraft’s deck, depending on specific needs. The autonomous landing will use cameras, guidance computing and five Aerojet Rocketdyne-made hypergolic engines to set the lander down on four shock-absorbing legs.

It will stand 6 feet tall (1.8 meters) and have a diameter of 8 feet (2.5 meters).Subsequent missions envision scaling up to payload masses of 585 pounds (265 kilograms). Markets range from scientific instruments to placing mementos on the Moon.

This company had been competing for the Google Lunar X-Prize, but pulled out of the competition when it realized it couldn’t launch by the end of 2018. It continued development, however, and apparently has gathered enough customers to pay for its launch in 2019.