Technology

America fails in space, Mexico loses opportunity

Update January 9, 2023: Added Mission Report #7, in which Astrobotic reveals new issues with the spacecraft and its mission objectives.

Updated January 10, 2023: Added Astrobotic’s question hypothesis and UNAM’s statement on what Colmena accomplished on board.

Astrobotic’s Peregrine Falcon capsule took off as planned, marking NASA’s return to the moon in more than 50 years and the first mission to a satellite from Mexico and the National Autonomous University of Mexico. However, just a few hours later, the trip became uncertain, at last Failed to reach the moon.

Problems with the Peregrine module began gradually, starting with an anomaly that prevented navigation.and steadily toward the sun to gain energy, this was determined to be caused by a propulsion system failure, which jeopardized the ship’s execution”soft landing“On the moon.

Although the ship’s position can be corrected by Temporary strategies for recharging the batterythe root cause of the problem was also found to be due to a propulsion system failure, resulting in severe fuel loss.

Astrobotic also said it is looking to stabilize the leak, with its first priority being to maximize the science and data that can be captured so that the mission team Evaluate feasible alternative task profilesthat is, finding how to use existing resources to conduct the greatest amount of research.

Losing control little by little

Their 6th update released on January 8th at 8pm CDT is very powerful. From fuel leak, Peregrine unable to remain stable Its thrusters were operating below capacity.

peregrine falcon module
peregrine falcon module

The Peregrine module installed on the Vulcan rocket before liftoff

Therefore, Astrobotic said that if the thrusters can keep running, it is estimated that the spacecraft can continue to point safely towards the sun. about 40 hoursthat is, until noon on Wednesday, January 10th.

Despite the problems, the essence of the mission remains and, as Astrobotic assures, the goal is Get the peregrine falcon as close to the moon as possible It eventually lost energy due to an inability to recharge its batteries before losing the ability to keep the spacecraft pointed toward the sun.

Ending chances of reaching the moon

In Update 7 of Peregrine Mission One, Astrobotic is more optimistic as despite admitting that due to propellant leak Landing on the moon is impossiblethe ship still had enough fuel to serve as a spacecraft and was cut off at 11 a.m. Central Mexico Time on Tuesday, January 9.

In addition, Astrobotic said the propellant is expected to be ready in 40 hours (i.e. Thursday, January 11, 2024 at 3 a.m.), an improvement over previous estimates.

Vista Peregrine Space
Vista Peregrine Space

The camera that captured this photo is located on the underside of the Peregrine’s payload deck.

Of course, the company agreed to work on developing new forms of Extend ship lifeperform tests and checks on the payload, receive “valuable data” and verify that its components and software will function during spaceflight during the Griffin mission’s next lunar landing attempt.

Astrobotic’s current hypothesis is that the spacecraft presents Valve abnormality Between the helium pressurizer and the oxidizer, it is not sealed after activation. As a result, “high pressure helium avalanche”, eventually breaking the tank.

The Importance of the Peregrine Falcon’s Mission

Unlike any mission flown by NASA or any other space agency, the Peregrine mission aboard the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Vulcan rocket marks the A new phase of private space exploration To the moon.

The project, led by Astrobotic, was able to gain space within the module to be able to Initiate multiple exploration tasks for different customersincluding several NASA payloads such as radiation detectors and spectrometers used to search for evidence of ice beneath the satellite’s surface.

For the agency’s part, it marks a return to the moon after more than 50 years, neither as one of its missions nor as part of Artemis, but in a commercial space program.

peregrine mission
peregrine mission

Some projects will also be carried out on Peregrine

Among those customers is COLMENA, a project run by the National Autonomous University of Mexico to send it to the moon. Five small robots that can analyze regolith (Moon dust) creates oxygen and metals, but they also try and connect them together to create solar panels and generate energy.

However, now that landing on the moon is no longer an option, the COLMENA mission will not be possible. Designed to explore satellite surfacesalthough for UNAM all technical development of miniaturized robotic systems and training of university students remains knowledge.

Despite being unable to analyze the regolith, UNAM believes COLMENA Achieved at least 50% successbecause even on Peregrine it enables the correct ignition of the robot in space.

The person in charge of this mission, Gustavo Medina Tanco, head of the Space Instrumentation Laboratory (LINX) of the Institute of Nuclear Sciences (ICN) of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, introduced that the experience of this mission Will provide efficient design for COLMENA 2will also perform the scientific missions originally planned for the project.

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