American space firm Astrobotic has unveiled the flight model of its Peregrine lunar lander, which it aims to send to the Moon this year. The flight model is the version of Peregrine that will actually fly to the Moon on a United Launch Alliance Vulcan Centaur rocket and is scheduled to launch in the fourth quarter of this year. This would make it the first American spacecraft to land on the Moon since the Apollo program, the company says.
Peregrine is a part of NASA‘s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS), an initiative that allows rapid acquisition of lunar delivery services from American companies for payloads that advance capabilities for science, exploration, or commercial development of the Moon. The unveiling of the spacecraft took place at Astrobotic’s Pittsburgh, PA, headquarters, a state-of-the-art facility dedicated to developing and operating lunar spacecraft.
The Peregrine lander is designed to precisely and safely deliver payloads to lunar orbit and the lunar surface. The lander is 1.9 m tall and is equipped with five main engines, which will help it perform all major maneuvers, including trans-lunar injection, trajectory correction, lunar orbit insertion, and powered descent. The payload can be mounted above or below the decks, inside or outside of enclosures, and can remain attached or deployed according to their needs.
Peregrine’s unveiling is a sign of its state of readiness as it moves closer to its launch date. If all goes according to the plan, the spacecraft will deliver 24 payloads to the lunar surface, including 11 from NASA alone, a rover from Carnegie Mellon University, several payloads from commercial companies, and cultural messages from individuals around the Earth. These payloads are already integrated onto Peregrine’s flight decks, which are awaiting installation on the greater lander.
“This lunar lander build is a dream come true,” said John Thornton, CEO of Astrobotic. “This is why our company was founded 15 years ago. It represents the culmination of countless hours over many years by hundreds of people to design and assemble the lander, create the lunar delivery market, and establish the facilities and supply chain needed to ensure the success of commercial space missions like Peregrine’s long into the future.”
Once Peregrine’s integration is complete, it will head to spacecraft environmental testing before being shipped to Cape Canaveral in Florida to begin its final preparations for launch by the end of this year.