On Christmas Eve, the Vulcan Centaur rocket from the United Launch Alliance (ULA) will launch for the first time with a payload that includes a personal lunar lander.
The cremated ashes of various people connected to the first “Star Trek” series, including the show’s creator Gene Rodenberry and cast member Nichelle Nichols, who played the character Uhura, will also be transported on board the Cert-1 mission. There have been prior attempts to place Rodenberry’s ashes in orbit.
The United Launch Alliance (ULA) confirmed Tuesday evening that the launch is scheduled for December 24 from the US Space Force launch facility at Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Tory Bruno, the CEO of ULA, stated in a CNBC interview that “we’ll be launching several times in ’24.” “When we get about halfway through ’25, we’ll be launching every two weeks, so you’ll see a steady ramp up.” The Atlas V is part of ULA’s current portfolio of rockets; the Vulcan Centaur is one of its “next generation” rockets that will offer higher performance and more affordability.
Due to orbital mechanics and the accessibility of NASA’s Deep Space Network for communications, the Christmas Eve launch date was chosen, with backup dates in the days that followed.
Amazon and ULA have already agreed that the Vulcan Centaur will carry a sizable amount of Kuiper, the company’s upcoming constellation of internet satellites.
The Peregrine lunar lander, created by Astrobotic, may place an American robot on the moon for the first time since the Apollo mission concluded in 1972. NASA provided funds to Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic for this trip, which will conduct research in advance of the space agency’s Artemis program to bring people back to the Moon this decade.
But in addition, NASA has a contract with Intuitive Machines, whose lander will launch in mid-November on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. This spring, a Japanese start-up called iSpace sought to make history by landing on the Moon as the first private corporation, but the mission ended in a crash.
In August, an official government expedition to the Moon resulted in a successful landing for India. A trip to the Moon was also launched in September by the Japanese space agency Jaxa, with a lunar landing attempt planned for early 2024.