The first Vulcan rocket launch will carry a private lander to the moon

The flurry of missions to the moon in 2024 is starting big with the first launch of the new Vulcan rocket.

The launch, planned for 8 January, will carry Astrobotic’s Peregrine lander to the moon in the first mission of NASA’s ambitious Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) programme.

Vulcan was built by the United Launch Alliance (ULA), a collaboration between Boeing and and Lockheed Martin.

Prior to the arrival of SpaceX on the scene, ULA was a dominant force in the US space launch business, but in recent years SpaceX has performed the majority of US launches.

Vulcan could be ULA’s opportunity to snatch back some of that market share, which is particularly important for it because the company is now for sale.

Potential buyers include Jeff Bezos’s space flight company Blue Origin, among others. If all goes well with this launch, there are six more planned for 2024.