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Plans for the first US moon landing mission since Apollo



By Eric M. Johnson

SEATTLE (Reuters) – The first American spaceship expected to land on the Moon for almost 50 years will be an unmanned robotic lander powered by closely linked Astrobotic Technology Inc built and launched by United in two years The companies told Reuters on Monday to launch Alliance's Vulcan rocket.

Astrobotic was one of nine companies that fought $ 2.6 billion in November for the development of small-space vehicles and other technologies for 20 lunar surface exploration missions over the next decade.

Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic has selected Vulcan, which was developed by a joint venture between Boeing Co and Lockheed Martin Corp. to launch its hiker in Florida in the summer of 2021 from Cape Canaveral in Rocket, the backbone of the ULA. Defense against rival booster of billionaire Elon Musk SpaceX and other companies will form.

Astrobotic said Peregrine was preventing the timetable It's the first American spaceship to land on the Moon since the Apollo astronauts were set up in 1972.

The mission will deliver technology and experiments to the Moon as part of a NASA program that will lay the foundation for astronaut rides until 2024, according to the set optimistic schedule. "Our first flight on Vulcan is also the first big step on the way back to the Moon Moon, "said Tory Bruno, chief executive of the United Launch Alliance, ahead of the announcement to Reuters.

Astrobotic said in May NASA awarded $ 79.5 million for its first mission, which will carry up to 28 payloads from eight different countries, including the US and Mexico.

The dollar value of the launch contract was not announced, profile victory for ULA's flagship heavy-duty missile, which has replaced a competing offer from SpaceX, according to Astrobotic.

SpaceX has already lowered launch costs with its reusable rocket technology. Jeff Bezos & # 39; Blue Origin, founder of Amazon.com Inc, whose BE-4 engines power the Vulcan, is also working on a heavy-lift booster.

MANY MOUNTAIN SHOTS

NASA Strives to Outsource Design, Development, and Operations Some private-sector space activities as part of a strategy pursued by Trump's appointed administrator Jim Bridenstine. He wants NASA to be one of many customers in the near-Earth markets and lunar markets to pave the way for deeper space exploration.

For ULA, the launch is the first of two certification flights for the US Air Force. Vulcan will replace ULA's former Delta and Atlas rocket families, which has been synonymous with space missions for the US military for decades.

ULA and Astrobotic recognize production issues or other factors could delay the startup schedule.

Other countries are also focusing on the moon. A Chinese spacecraft successfully landed on the other side of the moon in January, although Israel's unmanned lander Beresheet crashed on its final descent in April. India's Chandrayaan 2 rover, launched in July, was on its way to the Moon's South Pole and was not explored by any other nation. Executive John Thornton told Reuters ahead of Monday's announcement.

The Astrobotic deal was the second time in a week that ULA defeated SpaceX on a high profile contract. On Wednesday, Sierra Nevada Corporation selected Vulcan to launch its Dream Chaser spacecraft on freight missions to the International Space Station. This is the second launch of Vulcan.

(coverage by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; additional coverage by Joey Roulette in Washington, edited by Greg Mitchell and Cynthia Osterman)


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