The upcoming historic launch of Astrobiotic’s Peregrine lander was originally set for Christmas Eve. However, a new update from the United Launch Alliance (ULA) has called off the launch, pushing it to 2024 due to issues with ground systems.
The news surfaced this week when Tory Bruno, the chief executive of the ULA, announced the delay. The launch of the Peregrine lander is a huge deal, as it will be the first under NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative, which will see NASA payloads delivered to the moon without the agency having to handle construction of the spacecraft and everything else.
On top of the Peregrine lander being iconic for helping kickstart NASA’s new initiative, it will also be the first payload to launch aboard the ULA’s newest rocket type, the Vulcan Centaur Rocket, which is slated to be a bit more competitive with SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets.
Peregrine will also carry a slew of instruments and payloads to the Moon from other agencies and companies. However, one of the most important will be the Peregrine ion trap mass spectrometer, or PITMS for short. The entire goal behind PITMS is to learn more about the Moon’s exosphere by measuring the mass-to-charge ratio of ions.
This information will help improve our knowledge of the abundance and behavior of elements known as volatiles on the moon, as well as how they respond to things like rocket exhaust. All of this will be key to ongoing missions to the lunar surface, including NASA’s upcoming historic Artemis III mission, which will see human boots back on the lunar surface for the first time in over 50 years.
The delay of the Peregrine lander’s launch is disappointing. However, launching in 2024 won’t be a huge inconvenience, as it means we’ll be able to head into the new year with a clear goal for astronomers studying the Moon.