Space firm Astrobotic revealed the flight model of its robotic Peregrine lunar lander, which it aims to send to the Moon this year, a press statement reveals.
If it reaches the Moon in the fourth quarter of this year as planned, it will be the first American spacecraft to reach the lunar surface since the Apollo program, Astrobotic says.
Peregrine was designed to deliver cargo to the Moon, and it is being assembled at Astrobotic's Pittsburgh headquarters, where members of the press were invited to attend an unveiling event.
The lunar lander will travel as part of NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program, which will launch aboard United Launch Alliance's first Vulcan Centaur mission. The Vulcan Centaur launch vehicle is the successor to ULA's Atlas V and Delta IV rockets.
The lunar lander project is "a dream come true"
Peregrine will deliver 24 payloads to the Moon, including 11 scientific instruments from NASA and a rover built by engineers at Carnegie Mellon University. The payloads have already been integrated into the Peregrine's flight decks, which will soon be added to according to Astrobotics.
"This lunar lander build is a dream come true," said John Thornton, CEO of Astrobotic. "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."
Astrobotic has previously exhibited some impressive 3D printing technology, as well as a wheeled robot, called CubeRover, for the Moon. NASA's CLPS program is part of the space agency's wider Artemis program, which is aimed at sending astronauts to the Moon and establishing a constant presence on our celestial neighbor.
NASA is relying greatly on private companies to help it provide the innovation it requires, and private firm SpaceX is developing the spacecraft, Starship, that will land the first astronauts on the Moon since the last Apollo landing in December 1972. Before then, Astrobotics may soon be able to lay claim to the first uncrewed U.S. Moon landing since the Apollo program ended.