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Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic teams with United Launch Alliance for rocket ride to the moon

Aaron Aupperlee
| Wednesday, July 26, 2017, 1:48 p.m.
A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket lifts off with the OA-7 resupply spacecraft to the International Space Station on April 18, 2017, from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. ULA will use an Atlas V rocket to launch Astrobotic's Peregrine Lunar Lander in late 2019.
A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket lifts off with the OA-7 resupply spacecraft to the International Space Station on April 18, 2017, from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. ULA will use an Atlas V rocket to launch Astrobotic's Peregrine Lunar Lander in late 2019.
A mock up of Astrobotic's Peregrine Lander, which it intends to use for its first mission to the moon in 2019. The Strip District-based space delivery company shot photos of the lander at the LaFarge Duquesne Slag in West Mifflin and only edited the sky to include the Earth in the background.
A mock up of Astrobotic's Peregrine Lander, which it intends to use for its first mission to the moon in 2019. The Strip District-based space delivery company shot photos of the lander at the LaFarge Duquesne Slag in West Mifflin and only edited the sky to include the Earth in the background.

Astrobotic has found its ride to the moon.

The Pittsburgh-based space company announced Wednesday that it will catch a ride to the moon on a United Launch Alliance rocket in 2019.

Astrobotic's pairing with ULA is a major step toward the company's lunar aspirations. Finding a launch partner can take years and often derails or delays missions.

“By launching with ULA, Astrobotic can rest assured our payload customers will ride on a proven launch vehicle with a solid track record of success. Together, our two organizations will honor the past and trail blaze the lunar future,” Astrobotic CEO John Thornton said in a statement.

ULA formed in 2006 as a joint venture between aerospace juggernauts Lockheed Martin and Boeing. Lockheed's Atlas rockets and Boeing's Delta rockets have launched about 1,300 missions over the last 50 years for the Department of Defense, NASA and other organizations. Under ULA, the two launch programs can offer reliable and cost-efficient access to space. ULA has launched more than 115 missions for the government and private companies.

A ULA Atlas V rocket will carry Astrobotic's Peregrine Lunar Lander to the moon. You can watch a launch of the Atlas V rocket in 360-degree video.

Peregrine will land 35 kilograms of payloads on the moon's surface during the 2019 maiden voyage including a handful of rovers, a laser communication terminal to provide an ultra-fast connection to the moon that will enable a live stream of 360-degree video , personal items sent via the DHL MoonBox program and other projects.

Astrobotic, a Carnegie Mellon University spinoff company located in the Strip District, hopes its late 2019 mission will serve as a demonstration of its technology to NASA and other space agencies and private companies looking to the moon.

“The moon is the next great frontier, but in a different way than when Neil Armstrong landed there. Enabling technologies like those from Astrobotic will allow people to live and work in the space between here and the moon and take advantage of all those resources in a way that is sustainable,” Tory Bruno, CEO of ULA, said in a statement.

Astrobotic's 2019 mission will align with the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, which landed Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon.

Aaron Aupperlee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at aaupperlee@tribweb.com, 412-336-8448 or via Twitter @tinynotebook.

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