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ULA’s Alabama-built Vulcan Centaur rocket chosen for 2021 Moon mission

Astrobotic on Monday announced that it has selected United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Vulcan Centaur rocket in a competitive commercial procurement to launch its Peregrine lunar lander to the Moon in 2021.

This is slated to be the Vulcan Centaur’s first launch, with development and assembly on schedule at ULA’s world-class Decatur facility.

Astrobotic CEO John Thornton in a statement said the planned 2021 launch will be “a historic day for the country,” powered by the ‘Made in Alabama’ rocket.

“We are so excited to sign with ULA and fly Peregrine on Vulcan Centaur,” Thornton said. “This contract with ULA was the result of a highly competitive commercial process, and we are grateful to everyone involved in helping us make low-cost lunar transportation possible.”

“When we launch the first lunar lander from American soil since Apollo, onboard the first Vulcan Centaur rocket, it will be a historic day for the country and commercial enterprise,” he concluded.

Astrobotic, the world leader in commercial delivery to the moon, was selected by NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program to deliver up to 14 NASA payloads to the Moon on its Peregrine lunar lander in 2021. With this $79.5 million CLPS award, Astrobotic has now signed 16 customers for lunar delivery on its first mission.

“Our rockets have carried exploration missions to the moon, the sun and every planet in the solar system so it is only fitting that Vulcan Centaur’s inaugural flight will lead the return of Americans to the lunar surface,” Tory Bruno, ULA’s president and CEO, emphasized. “We could not be more excited to fly this mission for Astrobotic.”

Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), a champion of American space exploration and Alabama’s aerospace industry, celebrated the announcement in a tweet.

The launch of this mission will serve as the first of two certification flights required for ULA’s U.S. Air Force certification process for the Vulcan Centaur. The company recently submitted its proposal for Phase II of the Launch Service Procurement’ competition.

Bruno said ULA’s partnership with Astrobotic is indicative of how the American space industry is excelling, with Alabama playing an integral role.

“This partnership represents a true ‘whole-of-government’ approach to how our nation is leading the world in space: NASA contracted with a commercial company to land on the moon, who then went on to contract with a commercial company for a rocket built to serve the national security space market,” Bruno advised.

He concluded, “This highlights the power of our American system of partnership between government and industry to solve the toughest problems and the greatest of our human aspirations.”

RELATED: ULA chosen for six missions, lauded for ‘proven safety record and on-time performance’

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn