Skip to main content

NASA confirms burn-up date for failed Peregrine spacecraft

Astrobotic’s Peregrine spacecraft will burn up in Earth’s atmosphere on Thursday, January 18, NASA has confirmed.

Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic said earlier in the week that the burn-up of the Peregrine spacecraft, which is about the size of a storage shed, posed no safety risks and will remove from orbit what would otherwise become a piece of hazardous space junk.

The mission was supposed to put the first U.S. lander on the moon since the final Apollo mission five decades ago, but a debilitating propellant leak that began shortly after launch on January 8 prevented the spacecraft from reaching the lunar surface.

However, the bid to also become the first private company to put a lander on the moon hasn’t been cast as a complete failure, as Astrobotic managed to keep the spacecraft operational for much longer than expected, partly because the propellant leakage eased.

This enabled the team to power up some of Peregrine’s 21 payloads and run other checks on the vehicle, with the gathered data set to prove useful for future Astrobotic missions.

Peregrine Mission 1 was part of NASA’s new CLPS (Commercial Lunar Payload Services) program, which involves the space agency contracting commercial entities to send science missions to the moon ahead of the first Artemis crewed landing, which is expected to take place in 2026.

“I am so proud of what our team has accomplished with this mission,” Astrobotic CEO John Thornton said recently. “It is a great honor to witness firsthand the heroic efforts of our mission control team overcoming enormous challenges to recover and operate the spacecraft after Monday’s propulsion anomaly.”

Thornton added: “This mission has already taught us so much and has given me great confidence that our next mission to the moon will achieve a soft landing.”

That mission involves the Griffin Lander, which Astrobotic hopes to put on the lunar surface in November.

Editors' Recommendations

Trevor Mogg
Contributing Editor
Not so many moons ago, Trevor moved from one tea-loving island nation that drives on the left (Britain) to another (Japan)…
Astrobotic thinks it knows what caused propellant leak on Peregrine moon lander
The first image of Astrobotic's Peregrine spacecraft.

The launch of Astrobotic’s Peregrine Mission 1 on Monday marked the first attempt to put an American lander on the moon since the final Apollo mission in 1972, but sadly it won’t be happening.

A few hours after liftoff from the Kennedy Space Center, news came through that the Peregrine spacecraft suffered a “critical” propellant leak that meant Astrobotic had little hope of becoming the first commercial company to achieve a soft landing on the moon.

Read more
Check out the first image from Peregrine lunar lander
The first image of Astrobotic's Peregrine spacecraft.

UPDATE: Astrobotic confirmed on Monday evening that the Peregrine lander will not be able to make it to the lunar surface. In a post on social media, it said that an ongoing propellant leak is causing the spacecraft's thrusters to operate "well beyond their expected service life cycles to keep the lander from an uncontrollable tumble." It added that based on the current rate of fuel consumption, the spacecraft's thrusters could continue to operate for about 40 more hours, adding: "At this time, the goal is to get Peregrine as close to lunar distance as we can before it loses the ability to maintain its sun-pointing position and subsequently loses power."

Astrobotic’s Peregrine spacecraft has beamed back its first image (above) and it provides the first visual evidence of a propulsion system anomaly.

Read more
Fly your name to the moon as part of historic NASA mission
An illustration of NASA's Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) on the lunar surface.

Illustration of NASA's Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) on the surface of the Moon NASA Ames/Daniel Rutter / NASA Ames/Daniel Rutter

NASA likes to bring its missions closer to space fans around the world -- especially to the younger generation to get them interested in science subjects -- and part of these efforts involves the chance for people to fly their names on spacecraft heading off to explore parts of our solar system.

Read more