Astrobotic has zeroed in on a possible cause of the problems experienced by the Peregrine lunar lander.
Peregrine launched early Monday morning (January 8) aboard United Launch Alliance's (ULA) new Vulcan Centaur rocket, aiming to become the first private spacecraft to softly land on the moon's surface.
However, this dream was shattered by a propellant leak that appeared shortly after Peregrine deployed from the rocket's upper stage. Astrobotic has since troubleshooted and analyzed the issue, and the company may now know what happened.
“Astrobotic's current hypothesis for the Peregrine spacecraft's propulsion anomaly is that the valve between the helium compressor and oxidizer failed to reclose after power-on during initialization,” company representatives wrote in a letter. Posted on X Tuesday afternoon (January 9).
“This resulted in a high-pressure helium rush which caused the pressure in the oxidizer tank to rise beyond its operating limit, thus rupturing the tank,” they added.
Related: The first image from a crippled private Peregrine Moon lander holds a clue about the anomaly
Astrobotic has been admirably transparent about the Peregrine anomaly: Tuesday afternoon's update was the eighth update the company has published on the X since the leak occurred.
In update number seven, published by Astrobotic earlier Tuesday, the company announced that a fuel leak will prevent Peregrine from landing on the moon as planned. This update also stated that the lander is in stable operating mode and has enough fuel for approximately 40 hours.
Peregrine carries 20 payloads for a variety of customers, including NASA, which placed five science instruments on the lander through the agency's Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program. None of these payloads will reach their intended destination.
The next CLPS launch will come next month, when Houston-based Intuitive Machines' Nova-C lander rockets toward the moon aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
The Peregrine launch marked the long-awaited debut of the Vulcan Centaur rocket, which will replace ULA's venerable Atlas V and Delta rockets. Astrobotic confirmed that Vulcan Centaur did his job well on Monday.
Astrobotic wrote in update number eight that the rocket “entered Peregrine on its planned path across the moon without a problem.” “There is no indication that the propulsion anomaly occurred as a result of the launch.”
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