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Space & Astronomy

Peregrine lander's bid to land on the Moon scuppered by fuel leak

By T.K. Randall
January 9, 2024 · Comment icon 64 comments
View from the Peregrine spacecraft.
The first image taken by the spacecraft in space. Image Credit: Astrobotic / Twitter / X
Astrobotic's ambitious lunar lander Peregrine looks set to fail its mission after unexpected technical problems.
The spacecraft, which is the first US-built lunar lander to launch since the Apollo program and also the first commercial spacecraft ever to attempt a soft-landing on the Moon, lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida on Monday with the goal of eventually touching down on the Moon's northern hemisphere late next month.

Its extensive payload includes two rovers (one from the Mexican Space Agency and another from Carnegie Mellon University), a host of scientific instruments and even the DNA of US President John F Kennedy.

It wasn't long after the launch, however, that it became apparent that something was wrong as the spacecraft struggled to correctly align its solar panels towards the Sun.

The cause, it turned out, was a major propulsion system leak.
As things stand, Peregrine's fuel is likely to run out within just two days and it will no longer be possible for it to attempt a landing on the lunar surface.

"An ongoing propellant leak is causing the spacecraft's Attitude Control System (ACS) thrusters to operate well beyond their expected service life cycles to keep the lander from an uncontrollable tumble," Astrobiotic wrote in a statement on Twitter.

"If the thrusters can continue to operate, we believe the spacecraft could continue in a stable sun-pointing state for approximately 40 hours, based on current fuel consumption."

"At this time, the goal is to get Peregrine as close to lunar distance as we can before it loses the ability to maintain its sun-pointing position and subsequently loses power."

Source: BBC News | Comments (64)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #55 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf 3 months ago
Comment icon #56 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf 3 months ago
Comment icon #57 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf 3 months ago
Comment icon #58 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf 3 months ago
Comment icon #59 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf 3 months ago
Comment icon #60 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf 3 months ago
Comment icon #61 Posted by DieChecker 3 months ago
RIP Peregrine Mission One. Learning experience. Surely the second one will get to land. Maybe the Navajo put a curse on this first mission. (They didn't want human remains on the Moon, which has a religious significance to them.)
Comment icon #62 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf 3 months ago
Comment icon #63 Posted by DieChecker 3 months ago
It did demonstrate the ballistics would have worked, minus the fuel leak. Good first step (in a historical cintext) with just going to lunar distance and back.
Comment icon #64 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf 3 months ago
That's really just a matter of orbital mechanics and they've been known to be working since Newton and Kepler discovered them. The most important things that were demonstrated were that the Astrobotic ground systems, communications systems, instrumentation and experiments all worked. It also proved that the ULA Vulcan Centaur and Blue Origin BE4 rocket engines worked. This was the debut for that launche vehicle and those engines, and they worked perfectly. 

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