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No possibility of soft landing in Peregrine Mission One Astrobotic for United States, first lander on the Moon in 50 years, spacecraft still operational ABPP

Astrobotic Peregrine Mission One: The Pittsburgh-based aerospace firm’s Peregrine lunar lander has suffered anomalies due to a fault in the propulsion system and a propellant leak, but operations in space continue. As of January 10, 2024, Peregrine has been active in space for 55 hours. However, Astrobotic has said that there is no possibility of the lander making a soft landing on the Moon.

If Peregrine had made a soft landing on the Moon, it would have become the first United States lander to land on the Moon in 50 years, and the world’s first commercial lander to do so.

Astrobotic Peregrine Mission One: What Went Wrong?

Launched on January 8, 2024, Peregrine encountered an anomaly a few hours after launch. However, Astrobotic successfully reestablished communications with Peregrine, and conducted a correction maneuver to reorient Peregrine’s solar array toward the Sun. An anomaly in the propulsion system had prevented the lander from achieving stable sun-guided orientation.

In a mission update on January 9, Astrobotic said that Peregrine experienced a propellant loss, resulting in the attitude control system (ACS) thrusters operating beyond their expected service life to keep the lander stable and prevent deceleration .

The space firm said the mission would be in jeopardy if the thrusters could not keep the spacecraft in a steady sun-facing direction for about 40 hours. However, this did not happen and Peregrine remained operationally stable for 55 hours.

The amount of fuel consumed by the thrusters to maintain a stable orientation for the Peregrine will determine how long the lander remains in the correct orientation.

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After Peregrine had been operational for about 32 hours, Astrobotic said in a mission update that the spacecraft had begun to tilt away from the Sun, and its power output had decreased, but ground control stations were able to fix the problem and complete the mission. Updated the control algorithm for efficient charging. Batteries.

However, according to Astrobotic, there is no possibility of a soft landing on the Moon due to propellant leakage. The amount of propellant remaining is sufficient to allow the company to continue operating the vehicle as a spacecraft.

The anomaly was that a valve between the helium pressurant and the oxidizer failed to re-seal after activation during initialization.

In the rocket’s pressure tank, a gas such as helium is kept at a high pressure of up to 60 MPa, and is called a pressure gas. Oxidizer liquid is one of two types of propellants used by chemical rockets, the other being fuel. According to NASA, the oxidizer could be nitrogen tetroxide, liquid fluorine, nitric acid and liquid oxygen.

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The process of setting something in motion is called actuation.

Since the valve between the helium pressurant and the oxidizer failed to seal again, the helium pressure caused the pressure in the oxidizer tank to go beyond its operating limits.

Astrobotic theorized that this caused the oxidizer tank to rupture.

The space firm has clarified that the anomaly did not occur due to any problems at launch, and United Launch Alliance (ULA)’s Vulcan Centaur successfully inserted Peregrine into the planned translunar trajectory.

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Will Peregrine reach the Moon?

Astrobotic said in its latest mission update that Peregrine is about 192,000 miles (308,994 kilometers) from Earth, meaning the spacecraft has covered 80 percent of its way to the moon.

Peregrine is approaching lunar distance, but will not reach the Moon. The lander remains on its nominal trajectory for the mission.

This trajectory consists of a phased loop around the Earth. This means that Peregrine is moving toward lunar orbit, will later rotate back around Earth, and then move toward the Moon.

A spacecraft on this trajectory takes 15 days to reach the Moon after launch.

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Despite the fact that Peregrine was leaking propellant, it has remained operationally stable, and continues to acquire valuable data.

Astrobotic expects Peregrine’s propellant to run out in about 35 hours. Nevertheless, efforts are continuing to increase the lifespan of the lander.

The data obtained from Peregrine, and the mistakes learned from this mission, will allow Astrobotic to better prepare for the firm’s next lunar lander mission, Griffin.

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