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A Fiery Return to Earth Imminent

Small Satellite Burning Up Art Concept

According to Astrobotic, the Peregrine is projected to make its re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere and potentially burn up on Thursday, January 18. (Artist’s concept.) Credit: SciTechDaily.com

Astrobotic Predicts Peregrine’s Fiery Earth Re-Entry on January 18

Despite a successful launch, Peregrine faced a propulsion issue, preventing a Moon landing. It is set to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere and burn up. NASA continues to support Astrobotic in analyzing the issue and planning future missions, emphasizing the lessons learned from this experience.

The following NASA statement is attributed to Dr. Nicola Fox, associate administrator, Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington:

As part of NASA’s CLPS (Commercial Lunar Payload Services) initiative, Astrobotic’s Peregrine became the first American commercial lunar lander to launch on a mission to the Moon. Under the Artemis campaign, NASA is supporting exploration through the development of a lunar economy fostering a new commercial robotic delivery service carrying NASA science and technology instruments to the Moon in advance of future missions with crew.

Astrobotic Peregrine Lander in Space

First image of Astrobotic’s Peregrine lander in space. Credit: Astrobotic

The privately designed and developed Peregrine robotic spacecraft uses novel, industry-developed technology, some of which has never flown in space. Shortly after a successful launch and separation from the rocket on January 8, the spacecraft experienced a propulsion issue that would ultimately prevent it from softly landing on the Moon.

Astrobotic said on its current trajectory, Peregrine will re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere on Thursday, January 18, and is likely to burn up. Astrobotic worked with NASA’s assistance to assess the most appropriate action, and this is the best approach to safely and responsibly conclude Peregrine Mission One.

Astrobotic Peregrine Lunar Lander

Peregrine is Astrobotic’s small-class lunar lander. Here is an illustration of what it would have looked like, had it managed to land on the Moon. Credit: Astrobotic Technology

While it’s too soon to understand the root cause of the propulsion incident, NASA continues to support Astrobotic, and will assist in reviewing flight data, identifying the cause, and developing a plan forward for the company’s future CLPS and commercial flights.

Spaceflight is an unforgiving environment, and we commend Astrobotic for its perseverance and making every viable effort to collect data and show its capabilities of Peregrine while in flight. Together, we will use the lessons learned to advance CLPS.

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