Astrobotic’s Progress in NASA’s Lunar CATALYST Program

Peregrine lunar lander (Credit: Astrobotic)

Astrobotic is one of three companies NASA has signed agreements with for the Lunar Cargo Transportation and Landing by Soft Touchdown (Lunar CATALYST) program.

“The purpose of the Lunar CATALYST initiative is for NASA to encourage the development of U.S. private-sector robotic lunar landers capable of successfully delivering small (30 to 100 kg) and medium (250 to 500 kg) class payloads to the lunar surface using U.S. commercial launch capabilities,” the agreement states.

“This no-funds-exchanged Space Act Agreement (SAA) with the Partner enables provision and coordination of NASA in-kind contributions at no cost to the Partner, of NASA civil servant technical expertise, access to NASA test facilities, the loaning of equipment, and software,” the agreement adds.

The program, which began three years ago, was recently extended another two years for all three partners. Below is an update on Astrobotic’s progress and a list of upcoming milestones.

ASTROBOTIC LUNAR CATALYST MILESTONES
NO.MILESTONE
DATE
STATUS
1Kickoff Meeting

Subsequent to Space Act Agreement execution and initiation of the Lunar CATALYST program, Astrobotic shall host a kickoff meeting to describe the plan for program implementation, which includes status and plan for Design, Development, Testing, & Evaluation (DDT&E), integrated schedule, financing, supplier engagement, risks and anticipated mitigations

Success criterion: Successful completion of the kickoff review as described above.

 September 2014 Complete
2Validation of Visual Navigation and Hazard Avoidance on Vertical Takeoff Vertical Landing (VTVL) rocket

Astrobotic will run visual navigation and hazard avoidance on a prototype landing sensor on a VTVL rocket simulating the final 250m of descent to touchdown. Visual navigation and hazard detection and avoidance will run closed loop.

Success criterion: Landing sensor and software runs real time, determines position with sufficient accuracy for guidance and successfully selects a safe landing location.

 November 2014Completed
3 Environmental qualification of Engineering Design Unit (EDU) sensor head and motor control testbeds

Astrobotic will perform environmental qualification of engineering development units of a motor control system and sensor head for the lunar lander.

Success criterion: Electronics survive environmental testing. Critical software elements demonstrated to run at required rates.

 December 2014 Completed
4Environmental qualification of EDU processor for landing

Astrobotic will perform environmental qualification of engineering development units of the processing electronics for lunar lander.

Success criterion: Electronics qualified to survive mission environment. Critical software elements demonstrated to run at required rates.

December 2014Completed
5Financial Milestone 1

Astrobotic will raise at least an amount in the door for robotic lunar lander development in 2014 (Jan-Dec) that is consistent with the 2014 lander development numbers included in Appendix B.7 of the Lunar CATALYST proposal, calculated by summing first lunar mission costs in 2014 for all WBS items 1.0-5.0 in total dollars. This value is calculated as revenue plus financing minus any payments for launch vehicle procurement or expenditures not relevant to lunar capabilities.

Success criterion: All necessary documentation is completed and total revenue plus financing is confirmed as evidenced by bank statement.

 April 2015 Completed
6 End-to-End Mission Simulation

Astrobotic will develop a simulation of the intended lunar mission from launch through landing incorporating mission planning tools.

Success criterion: Simulations must include verification of attitude control, trajectory planning, pose estimation, and fuel usage from launch to landing.

 April 2015Completed
8Validation of beta flight software with engineering units of sensing and computing hardware

Astrobotic will perform validation of engineering units of landing sensing and computing in a test flight.

Success criterion: Visual navigation, hazard detection, and landing site selection software operate online during flight on engineering units of sensors and computing.

 January 2016Competed
9Main engine and Reaction Control System (RCS) hot fire tests
Astrobotic will perform hotfire static and vacuum chamber tests on lander main engine and RCS enginesSuccess criterion: Engines demonstrate capability to execute lunar landing trajectory.
 June 2016Partially
Completed.
Main engine
hotfire completed
7Critical Design Review (CDR)

Astrobotic shall conduct a System CDR in accordance with the CDR definition.

Success criterion: The design presented describes detailed form, fit, and function characteristics; the selected functional characteristics designated for acceptance testing; and the acceptance test requirements.

 April 2018
9-1Reaction Control System (RCS) hot fire test

Astrobotic will perform hot-fire static and vacuum chamber tests on RCS engine

Success criterion: Characterize RCS engine performance under temperature and vacuum conditions.

May 2018
10Financial Milestone 2

Astrobotic will raise at least an amount in the door for robotic lunar lander development that is consistent with the 2014-2015 lander development numbers included in Appendix B.7 of the Lunar CATALYST proposal, calculated by summing first lunar mission costs for all WBS items 1.0-5.0 in total dollars. This value is calculated as revenue plus financing minus any payments for launch vehicle procurement or expenditures not relevant to lunar capabilities.

Success criterion: All necessary documentation is completed and total revenue plus financing is confirmed as evidenced by bank statement.

June 2018
11 Lander Propulsion Qualification Test

Astrobotic will perform a terrestrial qualification test of their lunar lander propulsion system.

Success criterion: Propulsion system demonstrates capability to execute lunar landing trajectory.

September 2018
12Primary Structure Complete

Peregrine Primary Flight Structure hardware complete and ready for integration with avionics, propulsion, and other subsystem hardware.

Success criterion: Astrobotic SR&MA approves Primary Structure completion prior to integration.

October 2018
13Hardware in the loop end-to-end simulation

Astrobotic will perform an end-to-end simulation of the lunar landing with engineering unit hardware in the loop

Success criterion: Hardware-in-the-Loop (HIL) testing complete on full mission profile.

 December 2018
14Financial Milestone 3

Astrobotic will raise at least an amount in the door for robotic lunar lander development that is consistent with the 2014-2016 lander development numbers included in Appendix B.7 of the Lunar CATALYST proposal, calculated by summing first lunar mission costs for all WBS items 1.0-5.0 in total dollars. This value is calculated as revenue plus financing minus any payments for launch vehicle procurement or expenditures not relevant to lunar capabilities.

Success criterion: All necessary documentation is completed and total
revenue plus financing is confirmed as evidenced by bank statement.

 December 2018
15 Kickoff for Second Mission

Astrobotic shall conduct a Kickoff Review for a second mission with the lander reconfigured for a mission carrying a medium class lunar surface payload. Astrobotic shall host a kickoff meeting to describe the plan for program/implementation, which includes status and plan for DDT&E, integrated schedule, financing, supplier engagement, risks and anticipated mitigations

Success criterion: Successful completion of the kickoff review as
described above.

June 2019
16Test Readiness Review and Flight Lander Assembled

Astrobotic will assemble a flight-ready lunar lander and perform a Test Readiness Review to assess readiness for environmental testing.

Success criterion: The as-built state of the lander is described including the detailed form, fit, and function of the system as it was built and the detailed testing plan is presented.

 July 2019
17 Lunar Lander Environment Testing Complete

Astrobotic will perform environmental testing including thermal vacuum, shake, mass properties, and electromagnetic interference/electromagnetic compatibility (EMI/EMC) to validate flight-readiness of the lunar lander

Success criterion: Lander passes flight environmental testing to validate flight readiness. Result is a flight-ready lander with the capability to deliver small and medium class payloads to the Moon.

September 2019

  • Robert G. Oler

    Hope they make it

  • Jimmy S. Overly

    Blerg. I’ve grown tired of the GLXP and the unfunded agreements of CATALYST. If I was benevolent dictator, I’d do a proper Lunar COTS and give funded awards to Masten, Moon Express, Astrobotic, and the like. We could use funds from that money blackhole we call the Space Launch System to fund them, and put a proper foot forward building a cislunar economy.

  • Andrew_M_Swallow

    So in about October 2019 Astrobotic and NASA will want a launch.

  • ThomasLMatula

    But wouldn’t that violate the rules of the Google X Prize?

  • Jimmy S. Overly

    Oh probably. But I’m not enamored with the GLXP.

  • Andrew_M_Swallow

    The prize is dead in April of next year (2018). Then funds can be given. Less than 1 weeks SLS money would do.

  • duheagle

    Doesn’t matter. Astrobotic withdrew from the Google Lunar X-Prize competition quite some time ago. The illo on this story is out of date.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Technically it was suppose to end in 2012, but the X-Prize foundation keeps getting Google to keep extending it. I am sure there will be another announcement shortly.