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How the new American mission to the moon threatens Elon Musk's SpaceX dominance in space transportation |  innovation

How the new American mission to the moon threatens Elon Musk's SpaceX dominance in space transportation | innovation

Watch how the Vulcan rocket was launched on a mission to the moon

The mission started on Monday (8) and The moon landing is scheduled to end on February 23. With 20 elements, including NASA equipment, the module built by American Astrobotic was transported by the Vulcan rocket, which has been developed since 2014 by the United Launch Alliance (ULA).

ULA is a company founded in 2006 by aviation equipment manufacturers Boeing and Lockheed Martin. In addition, another potential competitor to SpaceX is Blue Origin, owned by billionaire Jeff Bezos.

The start of the flight was successful: about 50 minutes after launch, Vulcan separated from the capsule designed to complete the flight on its own. but The outcome of the flight became uncertain Due to what the Astrobotic team classified as a “propulsion anomaly.”

According to the company, seven hours after launch. The unit has reached critical power levels due to a failure in its solar panel placement. An improvised remote maneuver moved the panels toward the sun and allowed the batteries to be charged.

“The goal is to bring Peregrine as close to the lunar distance as possible before it loses the ability to maintain its position facing the sun and then loses its strength,” Astrobotic said. Learn more about the new American mission to the moon:

Why is the mission important?

🚀 The United States' first soft landing on the moon since 1972;

🌕 The first landing on the moon was carried out by a private company;

👨‍🚀 The first lunar flight of the Artemis programNASA plans to conduct manned flights to the moon in 2025, as part of the Artemis 3 mission.

The mission includes exotic items from Astrobotic Partners, such as letters from more than 80,000 children and samples of human ashes. According to the New York Times, the trip also includes locks of hair from former US presidents George Washington, Dwight Eisenhower and John Kennedy.

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Vulcan rocket makes its maiden launch, in this photo taken on January 8, 2024 – Photo: Reuters/Joe Skipper

What does the new space race look like?

Vulcan is the rocket created to replace the Atlas V, which ULA has been using since 2002. Its development began after the US Congress ordered the company to stop using Russian engines in the vehicle.

Both Vulcan and Atlas V are expendable, unlike SpaceX's vehicles, which are designed for use on more than one mission.

A trip to the moon could include a Peregrine race with a module from Intuitive Machines, created by former NASA employees. According to the Washington Post, the company wants to launch to reach lunar soil by February 22, that is, one day before the arrival of the Astrobotic equipment.

The launches are part of NASA's program known as Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS). Through it, the agency pays companies to undertake space missions.

What does a Vulcan rocket look like?

The Vulcan can be adjusted to the goals of each flight, and has up to six thrusters, increasing its load-carrying capacity. With its most advanced standards, it is possible to transport up to 12 tons to the moon, according to the manufacturer.

To increase the cargo space, the front of the missile can be enlarged: while the height of the standard model is 15.5 metres, the height of the extended version reaches 21.3 metres. In this second scenario, the vehicle can reach a height of 67 metres.

The successful launch of the rocket was the first of two approved flights required by the U.S. Space Force before Vulcan can fly missions for the United States, which is expected to make United Launch Alliance's business more profitable.

United Launch Alliance's Vulcan rocket before launch on January 8, 2024 – Image: Disclosure/United Launch Alliance