Friday, November 3, 2023

Small Space News Story Roundup 24

Astrobotic's Peregrine Lunar Lander Arrives in Florida

With last week's notice that Intuitive Machines has slipped the launch date for their Nova-C lunar lander from November until January, the focus on the "private moon race" switched to Astrobotic's Peregrine lander, scheduled to fly on Christmas Eve's first launch of the Vulcan Centaur.  On Tuesday, Halloween, Astrobotic announced the lander had arrived at Cape Canaveral for final testing and integrating with the Vulcan launch vehicle.  

“It’s incredible to realize that we are just a short time away from our Peregrine spacecraft beginning its journey to the Moon,” says John Thornton, Astrobotic CEO, “After years of dedication and hard work, we are so close to having our moonshot. We invite you to follow along as Peregrine, with seven countries represented aboard, launches to the Moon and attempts one of the first successful landings of an American spacecraft since Apollo.”   

Peregrine is carrying 21 payloads from governments, companies, universities, and NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program. Peregrine’s full manifest can be found at

Photo credit: United Launch Alliance 

Speaking of ULA and Vulcan 

This week, US Space Force awarded a round of contracts to two companies to carry its national security satellites and other payloads into orbit over the next several years - so says the lead-in to the story.   In the first two launch contract phases, the selected launch companies were ULA and SpaceX.  It started out as ULA 60% to SpaceX 40%, but as Vulcan continued to slip out, that morphed into a 50/50 split.  In the launches awarded today, 10 were to SpaceX with 11 to ULA  or 52/48 ULA to SpaceX.  All 11 of ULA's launches are to be on the Vulcan Centaur, which has never flown and isn't likely to be certified for those missions for about another year. 

That naturally led to talk among industry watchers centered on how badly this was hurting ULA.  

When satellites are ready to fly, they need to fly ... And based on the latest data, this appears to have happened, Ars reports. Instead of receiving an anticipated 60 percent of launch orders from 2019 to 2023, ULA has only received 54 percent from the military. This amounts to three fewer launches, or a lost value of about $350 million. "It is imperative to rapidly deliver critical space capabilities to the Joint Warfighter as soon as they are ready to be launched—we cannot leave capability sitting on the ground," Col. Doug Pentecost, of Space Systems Command, said.

Over a year ago, there was report that USSF was looking to announce a Phase 3 of national security launches, covering launches in the late 2020s and early 2030s. Those contracts haven't been announced yet.

We got to watch another SpaceX Record Tonight

We just came back inside from watching tonight's SpaceX Starlink launch 6-26.  This was the 18th flight of fleet leader, booster B1058 earning the designation -18.  B1058-18 regains its position as the sole fleet leader, as the run to 20 flights continues. There have been other boosters holding the fleet leader position alongside B1058, but it has been at the top the longest.


  1. I wonder what knucklehead or knuckleheads think it's a great idea to launch an actual payload rather than a test article on the first launch of a new vehicle.

    SpaceX launched test loads on Falcon 1 and Falcon 9, and famously launched a friggin car on Falcon Heavy, and launched an empty Starship first time.

    What, 3 losses of Falcon 1, they were lucky on Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy, and lost bigly on Starship.

    And that's from what is now the Cadillac, the creme de la creme, the platinum record holder that is SpaceX.

    Instead, there are two critical lauches scheduled for the first two test flights of Vulcan. The lander and Dreamchaser.

    Space is hard, people. And insurance companies hate paying out, not to mention all that lost product and labor that goes into space launches.

  2. Daaaaaaang! 18 trips to space and back again. I'm pretty sure they are watching the booster sidewalls carefully so as to avoid a RUD, but this is crazy! I wonder when they will retire it...