Astrobotic’s Peregrine Lander Encounters Propulsion Issue, Moon Landing In Jeopardy


After a successful launch on United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan Centaur rocket this morning, Astrobotic Technology announced that its lunar lander, Peregrine, has encountered critical issues with the propellant system, making a moon landing unlikely.

Key Takeaway

Astrobotic’s Peregrine lander has encountered a propulsion system failure, casting doubt on its ability to achieve a moon landing. The company is exploring alternative mission profiles and plans a second attempt with its larger Griffin lander later this year.

Propulsion System Failure

In a series of updates, the Pittsburgh-based startup revealed that a “failure within the propulsion system” has led to a critical loss of propellant, prompting the team to prioritize maximizing the science and data capture while assessing alternative mission profiles.

Challenges Post-Launch

The issues arose shortly after launch when the lander was unable to orient itself to the sun and charge its batteries. Although engineers managed to reorient the spacecraft’s solar array and charge the batteries, the root cause was traced back to a failure within the propulsion system.

Current Operations

Astrobotic is utilizing the spacecraft’s existing power to perform “as many payload and spacecraft operations as possible” in light of the propulsion system issue.

Implications for the Mission

The propulsion system is especially crucial for this mission, which involves a complex path to the moon. The plan was to gradually lower the lander’s orbit and attempt a soft landing on February 23, requiring fuel.

Future Attempts and NASA’s Response

Astrobotic, selected by NASA to deliver scientific payloads to the moon, will make a second moon landing attempt with its larger Griffin lander later this year in a launch with SpaceX. Meanwhile, NASA’s Science Mission Directorate deputy administrator, Joel Kearns, emphasized the potential for learning and growth from both successes and setbacks.

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