Update: ULA Releases Vulcan Launch Photos

4th Jan 2024
Update: ULA Releases Vulcan Launch Photos

Update1: 0837 8th January

United Launch Alliance just released the first photos from remote cameras near the pad as the ULA Vulcan made its inaugural launch. More photos to come as the thus-far successful mission continues!

United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Vulcan rocket is about to embark on its maiden flight, NASA has announced. The launch vehicle, which will carry the commercial robotic lander, Peregrine, in its nose cone, will blast-off from Cape Canaveral on 8th January.

Developed by Astrobotic and endorsed by NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services programme, the lander is poised to touch down on the Moon’s surface on 23rd February. Significantly, if Peregrine lands on the Moon it will be the first successful commercially-backed lunar lander in history.  

NASA said in a statement: “The NASA payloads aboard the [Peregrine] lander aim to help the agency develop capabilities needed to explore the Moon under Artemis and in advance of human missions on the lunar surface.” Originally, ULA’s Vulcan rocket was expected to launch on Christmas Eve. However, the date was then revised with all systems go for the new January window. 

Where To Watch ULA’s Upcoming Vulcan Launch

Credit: ULA

On 8th January, ULA’s Vulcan rocket will take flight carrying the Peregrine lander and cremated remains. Live launch coverage will brew excitement from 1:30 am EST with the launch itself designated for 2:18 am.

In the days before liftoff, NASA said they will be livestreaming every aspect of the event: the science media briefing on 4th January, and the lunar delivery readiness conference on 5th January.

To watch, streams will be available on NASA’s website, NASA+, NASA Television and the NASA app; to view all the event details click here. You can also watch the launch at the aforementioned date and time by clicking on the YouTube video above.

The Unique Aspect Of ULA’s Upcoming Launch

ULA’s Vulcan rocket will be hauling a range of payload to space. Namely, Astrobotic’s Peregrine Lunar Lander, but also cremated remains and DNA. Uniquely, the rocket will transport the DNA of ‘Star Trek’ celebrities, ULA’s CEO, Tory Bruno, and his wife. Segments of the remains will travel 3 million km into deep space. The rest will be placed on the Moon – delivered by Peregrine. 

Peregrine’s Part In The Broader Artemis Mission

Astrobtic's Peregrine will travel in ULA's Vulcan rocket nose cone. Credit: ULA
Credit: ULA

Astrobotic’s Peregrine will serve as the first commercial lunar lander should its wheels hit the Moon’s surface. Once on the Moon, Peregrine’s work will commence: delivering payload to the lunar surface, including: “NASA science”. The US space agency said the lander will assist in identifying what capabilities are needed for human exploration missions to the Moon under the forthcoming Artemis mission. 

Peregrine is one of many lunar odysseys that have either set-off for the Moon or are in development. In 2023, India historically became the fourth country to complete the difficult feat of landing a spacecraft on the Moon. However, NASA ambitiously aspires to take that a step further. They are aiming to place boots on the Moon once again, in addition to building several lunar bases.

Initially, NASA said they will use Blue Origin’s human landing system, Blue Moon, to place the first set of astronauts on the Moon by 2029 under Artemis V. Eventually, NASA hopes to use the Earth’s rocky neighbour as a stepping stone for crewed missions to Mars.

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