Astrobotic just unveiled the flight model of its robotic Peregrine lunar lander, which is slated to launch to the moon late this year.
Peregrine is designed to deliver payloads to the surface of the moon. Its first mission is scheduled for the fourth quarter of this year, which would make it the first American spacecraft to land on the moon since the Apollo program, according to an emailed statement from Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic.
Peregrine is flying that first moon mission for NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program. The unveiling of the spacecraft took place at the company's headquarters on Wednesday (April 20), with NASA Administrator Bill Nelson and other agency officials in attendance.
"This lunar lander build is a dream come true," John Thornton, CEO of Astrobotic, said in the statement. "This is why our company was founded 15 years ago. It represents the culmination of countless hours over many years by hundreds of people to design and assemble the lander, to create the lunar delivery market and to establish the facilities and supply chain needed to ensure the success of commercial space missions like Peregrine's long into the future."
The lunar lander is being assembled at Astrobotic's Pittsburgh headquarters. The spacecraft is still under construction, with its solar panels, two fuel tanks, payload decks and engines still needing to be installed, according to SpaceNews.
To ensure the flight model's sensitive components were not contaminated, attendees at the unveiling were required to suit up in white coveralls and hairnets to enter the cleanroom where Peregrine is being assembled.
Peregrine's unveiling is a sign that the mission remains on track to launch this year. If all goes according to plan, the spacecraft will deliver 24 payloads to the lunar surface, including 11 scientific instruments from NASA, a rover from Carnegie Mellon University, cargo from several other companies and cultural messages from individuals around Earth. These payloads have already been integrated onto Peregrine's flight decks, which will soon be installed on the lander, according to the Astrobotic statement.
“Once Peregrine's integration is complete, it will head to spacecraft environmental testing, before being shipped to Cape Canaveral in Florida to begin its final preparations for launch in Q4 [the fourth quarter of] 2022,” Astrobotic officials said in the statement.
The Peregrine lander is slated to be the very first spacecraft to fly on United Launch Alliance's (ULA) Vulcan Centaur rocket — the successor to ULA's Atlas V and Delta IV launchers. Vulcan's inaugural flight was originally slated for 2021, but it was delayed due to supply chain issues for the Peregrine lander.