Stuck valve may have doomed private Peregrine moon lander mission, Astrobotic says (Image Credit: Space.com)
Astrobotic has homed in on a potential cause for the problems plaguing its Peregrine moon lander.
That dream was dashed, however, by a propellant leak that sprang up shortly after Peregrine deployed from the rocket’s upper stage. Astrobotic has been troubleshooting and analyzing the issue ever since, and the company may now know what happened.
“Astrobotic’s current hypothesis about the Peregrine spacecraft’s propulsion anomaly is that a valve between the helium pressurant and the oxidizer failed to reseal after actuation during initialization,” company representatives wrote in a post on X Tuesday afternoon (Jan. 9).
“This led to a rush of high-pressure helium that spiked the pressure in the oxidizer tank beyond its operating limit and subsequently ruptured the tank,” they added.
Astrobotic has been impressively transparent about the Peregrine anomaly: Tuesday afternoon’s update was the eighth one that the company has posted on X since the leak occurred.
In update number seven, which Astrobotic posted earlier on Tuesday, the company announced that the fuel leak will prevent Peregrine from landing on the moon as planned. That update also stated that the lander is in a stable operating mode and has about 40 hours’ worth of propellant left.
Peregrine is carrying 20 payloads for a variety of customers, including NASA, which put five scientific instruments on the lander via the agency’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program. None of these payloads will reach their intended destination.
Peregrine’s launch marked the long-awaited debut of Vulcan Centaur, which will replace ULA’s venerable Atlas V and Delta rockets. Vulcan Centaur did its job well on Monday, Astrobotic stressed.
The rocket “inserted Peregrine into the planned translunar trajectory without issue,” Astrobotic wrote in update number eight. “There is no indication that the propulsion anomaly occurred as a result of the launch.”