Fuel leak on Astrobotic’s moon lander leaves ‘no chance’ of soft landing

Astrobotic’s Peregrine lunar lander has “no chance” of a soft landing on the moon after springing a propellant leak in the first few hours of its journey in space, the company has said.

There was 40 hours of fuel left on the lander that would allow it to operate “as a spacecraft” even as engineers determine what its new mission in orbit will be, the space robotics firm said on Tuesday.

The craft was launched on board the first flight of Vulcan, a rocket that had been under development for a decade by United Launch Alliance (ULA), a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

The lander was launched successfully on Monday from Cape Canaveral, Florida, but it suffered a propulsion system issue en route to the moon.

After the launch, the lander failed to enter its correct sun-facing orientation in space and saw its battery levels plummet, but Astrobotic said it was able to fix the issue.

“The team continues to work to find ways to extend Peregrine’s operational life,” it said, adding that engineers are receiving data and proving spaceflight operations for components and software related to its next lunar lander mission.NASA had paid the company more than $100m to ship scientific hardware to a mid-latitude region of the moon to answer questions about the surface composition and radiation in the surrounding environment, as it prepares to send astronauts back to Earth’s nearest neighbour later this decade.

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