- United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan rocket successfully launched its long-awaited inaugural mission from Florida’s Cape Canaveral early Monday.
- Vulcan successfully deployed its main payload, the Peregrine lunar cargo lander for Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic, which aims to land on the moon on Feb. 23.
- ULA’s Vulcan represents the latest challenger to the launch business of Elon Musk’s SpaceX, with the companies fiercely competing for lucrative national security rocket contracts.
A new U.S. rocket reached orbit early Monday, and the launch was a big one – not just in scale of the vehicle, but also in significance for a market that’s become dominated by a single player in recent years.
United Launch Alliance, or ULA, successfully launched its long-awaited inaugural Vulcan rocket from Florida’s Cape Canaveral. The 202-foot-tall rocket successfully deployed its main payload, the Peregrine lunar cargo lander for Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic, about an hour later.
Astrobotic’s Peregrine is bound for the moon, where it will attempt a landing on Feb. 23 – potentially becoming the first American spacecraft to soft-land on the moon since Apollo 17 more than 50 years ago.
Under a NASA-funded program known as the Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative, Astrobotic’s mission represents one of six lunar launches of landers from three different companies slated for this year.
Taking on SpaceX
Finally, Vulcan’s first launch may also be key in discussions reportedly underway to sell the rocket company.
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