The Vulcan Centaur rocket ready to take off for a mission to any lunar point

The ULA Group's new Vulcan Centaur rocket, carrying an American lunar lander that could become the first private spacecraft to successfully land on the Moon in more than 50 years, is scheduled to blast off on Monday, January 8 from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The Vulcan Centaur rocket is due to tear off from its launch pad at Cape Canaveral on Monday, January 8 at 7:18 GMT. AFP - CHANDAN KHANNA

By: RFI Follow


Read More

Lunar. Under a partnership with Celestis, a company specializing in commemorative spaceflights, Vulcan Centaur is set to send ash and DNA from dozens of people, including those of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, to the Moon. The indigenous Navajo tribe denounced "the desecration of a sacred place." Heard on Friday during a meeting with representatives of NASA, the US aviation regulator and the White House, she did not obtain a postponement of the launch. Weather permitting, the new rocket from the ULA industrial group, which includes Boeing and Lockheed Martin, will be lifted off its launch pad on Monday at 7:18 GMT.

For a maiden flight, the mission is ambitious. In addition to the ash, the 62-meter rocket carries a lunar lander from the American start-up Astrobotic, which also contains NASA science experiments. The lunar landing attempt is scheduled for February 23. The target location is located on the near side of the Moon, near mysterious domes formed by lava, but which scientists are struggling to explain. Thanks to the instruments shipped, NASA will study the composition of the surface, as well as radiation.

A first

If the mission is successful, Astrobotic could become the first U.S. lunar lander to land on the moon since the end of the Apollo program more than 50 years ago. And the first private company to achieve this feat. Israeli and Japanese companies have tried to land on the moon in recent years, but these missions have ended in crashes. Japan is also due to attempt to land on the moon in two weeks, but this is a mission of the country's space agency (JAXA). Russia, for its part, spectacularly missed a moon landing this summer. To date, only the United States, the Soviet Union, China and India have successfully landed a plane on the Moon.

This mission also represents a major challenge for ULA. Vulcan Centaur should allow the manufacturer to replace its Atlas V and Delta IV launchers, and to compete with SpaceX with more affordable liftoffs. The American group, which plans six Vulcan Centaur launches this year, wants to recover its engines after each flight for even more profitability.

Although NASA is only temporary for this mission, it nevertheless represents a major step for the agency, which seeks to encourage the development of a lunar economy. It has contracted with several companies, including Astrobotic, to send scientific equipment to the Moon. The program, called CLPS, provides companies with crucial funding. Another selected company, Intuitive Machines, is also scheduled to blast off for the moon in mid-February with a SpaceX rocket.

The new strategy will allow NASA "to make the trip more often, faster and cheaper," said Joel Kearns, a senior official at the space agency. These missions studying the lunar environment should make it possible to prepare for the return of astronauts to the Moon, which NASA is planning with its Artemis program.


With AFP)

NewsletterGet all the latest international news straight to your inbox

Subscribe now

Follow all the international news by downloading the RFI app


Read on the same topics:

  • Space
  • United States