Your trusted source for the latest news and insights on Markets, Economy, Companies, Money, and Personal Finance.

A brand-new American rocket lifted off from a launchpad at Cape Canaveral, Fla., on Monday, and for the first time in more than 50 years, an American spacecraft will be headed toward the surface of the moon. The rocket is called Vulcan, and it was built by the company United Launch Alliance. Here’s what you need to know about its first flight.

Vulcan launched on schedule at 2:18 a.m. Eastern on Monday. Coverage continues to be broadcast on NASA Television.

The rocket was powered up at 3:58 p.m. on Sunday according to U.L.A., and fueling got underway after 9 p.m., with the rocket loaded with more than 1 million pounds of propellants shortly after midnight.

The countdown proceeded without interruption and the rocket’s engines fired up seconds before liftoff, sending the vehicle into the dark Florida morning. Less than two minutes after the flight began, the rocket’s two smaller side boosters ejected and liquid methane and liquid oxygen-fueled rocket burned an eerie blue in space.

“Nice and smooth operation of the booster,” a launch official said on the live video stream.

About three minutes later, the Vulcan rocket’s first journey concluded and the upper stage of the vehicle, the Centaur, lit up for a series of maneuvers over next hour that would send the moon lander on its lunar journey.

Astrobotic Technology of Pittsburgh is sending Peregrine, a robotic spacecraft, that is to land in Sinus Viscositatis — Latin for “Bay of Stickiness” — an enigmatic region on the near side of the moon. NASA is paying Astrobotic $108 million to take five experiments there, part of the space agency’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services program, or CLPS. The program aims to lower the cost of sending items to the lunar surface.

The Vulcan rocket, built by the United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, will replace the company’s two current rockets, the Altas V and the Delta IV.

Since the United Launch Alliance formed in 2006, its main business has been launching top-secret military payloads for the United States government. Its rockets were expensive — too expensive for most commercial customers — but highly reliable. With Vulcan, U.L.A. is seeking a greater share of the commercial market. It has already sold more than 70 Vulcan launches, including 38 to Amazon as it builds Project Kuiper, a constellation of internet communications satellites.

The United States Space Force would like to see two successful Vulcan launches before it puts any of its payloads aboard. Monday’s launch is the first certification launch. A second could occur as soon as April. That would lift Dream Chaser, an uncrewed space plane built by Sierra Space of Louisville, Colo., on a cargo delivery mission to the International Space Station.

If those flights are successful, four additional Vulcan launches this year would carry Space Force payloads to orbit.

The Navajo Nation is objecting to human ashes and DNA aboard Astrobotic’s Peregrine lander.

In addition to the five NASA experiments, Astrobotic’s Peregrine lander is also carrying several payloads for commercial customers. Those include Celestis and Elysium Space, companies that memorialize people by sending some of their remains to space.

On Thursday, Buu Nygren, the president of the Navajo Nation, said in a statement that he had sent a letter to NASA and the United States Department of Transportation that called for postponing the launch.

“The moon is deeply embedded in the spirituality and heritage of many Indigenous cultures, including our own,” he wrote. “The placement of human remains on the moon is a profound desecration of this celestial body revered by our people.”

During news conferences, NASA officials noted that they were not in charge of the mission and that they had no direct say on other payloads that Astrobotic sold on Peregrine.

”There’s an intergovernmental meeting being set up with the Navajo Nation that NASA will support,” Joel Kearns, a deputy associate administrator for exploration at NASA, said during a news conference on Thursday.

John Thornton, the chief executive of Astrobotic, said on Friday that he was disappointed that “this conversation came up so late in the game,” because his company had announced the participation of Celestis and Elysium years ago.

“We really are trying to do the right thing,” Mr. Thornton said. “I hope we can find a good path forward with the Navajo Nation.”

Share this article
Shareable URL
Prev Post
Next Post
Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Read next
Federal Reserve officials are fiercely protective of their separation from politics, but the presidential…
The Justice Department has begun a criminal investigation into Boeing after a panel on one of the company’s…