United Launch Alliance (ULA) has successfully launched the long-awaited Vulcan Centaur carrier rocket on its maiden flight, carrying the NASA Peregrine lunar lander developed by Astrobotic Technology as its payload. The Vulcan Centaur rocket, powered by Blue Origin’s BE-4 methane engines, replaces the Atlas V rocket, which used Russian RD-180 engines, and the Delta rocket family. Today’s launch marks a significant success for ULA, as it successfully orbited a new rocket, and furthermore, with a lunar station.
The Peregrine lander module is scheduled to touch down on the lunar surface near the Grütuyzen crater, located at the junction of the Storm Ocean and the Sea of Rains, on February 23. The scientific objectives of the mission include studying the lunar exosphere, thermal properties, hydrogen content in lunar regolith, magnetic fields, and radiation environment. NASA engineers will also be testing new-generation solar panels installed on the module.