Launching procedures covered; Moon landings still not up to par

23 Jan 2024

It has been two weeks now since the new American rocket named Vulcan successfully launched from the rocket complex 41 in Florida, Cape Canaveral, on its way to the Moon.

It was the first launch of the Vulcan rocket by the private American company ULA (United Launch Alliance) that was originally founded back in 2006. It took a full ten years from conceptual drawings to the real flames of the BE-4 rocket engines. Some might say it took them long enough, while others claim the process could have been accelerated.

Nonetheless, the attempts to conquer the Moon are most definitely a real trend that keeps on giving us hope that our space explorations will improve in the near future. That being said, another private company going by the name Astrobotic, built the Peregrine lander (under NASA’s auspices) whose historical-technological role is to prepare the nation for a new human presence on our natural satellite.

Peregrine, apart from the role of a transport robot, is primarily classified as a kind of technological miracle with the task of ultra-precise landing at the selected location, within 50m of the intended target!

Everything looked good, the rocket was successfully launched and performed all tasks flawlessly. Sadly as it happens rather too often in space, bad news followed soon afterwards.

The Peregrine lander, for an as-yet unknown reason, dropped its rocket fuel, necessary for orbital and mooning maneuvers. Landing on the lunar surface will thus not be possible at the moment. Astrobotic and ULA only had a few days to come up with a new mission schedule. But that’s not all.

Loss of control and communication with the lander is also bad news. Thanks to the DSN worldwide network of radio telescopes, communication and partial control has been established in the main time, but not fully.

The latter information is unquestionably proven by the physical damage to the lander and its components. Related to the team are the problems of correct orientation of the spacecraft and guiding the photovoltaic panels into the correct position towards the Sun.

Now, on the way to the Moon but without the possibility of landing, the Peregrine lander mission controllers’ main concern is to receive all the data and try to keep the spacecraft in operational condition as long as possible.

This is valuable information for constructors. Space technologies require a lot of mistakes, a lot of failures, a lot of time and a lot of perseverance. Only then will real results follow. That is simply how complex tasks get handled. One step at a time and then two backwards, but perseverance is and remains the name of the game.

In the meantime, after last year’s entire squadron of spacecrafts that were sent to the Moon, there is a new attempt to conquer the Moon. The next launch is expected in mid-February.

The private company Intuitive Machines, in cooperation with SpaceX, will launch the Nova-C lander with a Falcon 9 rocket. Currently this seems to be the focus among many established science-focused companies, so results are bound to follow, but they take some time and a lot of resources.

We keep our fingers crossed for them, because the success of one, the other or the third is the success of all humanity!