Orbit Beyond Ends NASA Contract to Land Spacecraft on Moon

Orbit Beyond of Edison, New Jersey, has proposed to fly as many as four payloads to a lava plain in one of the Moon’s craters. (Credit: Orbit Beyond)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Citing “internal corporate challenges”, Orbit Beyond has pulled out of a $97 million contract with NASA to land a spacecraft on the moon in July 2021.

“Orbit Beyond, Inc., has informed NASA of internal corporate challenges that will prevent the timely completion of its awarded task order,” the space agency said in a press release.

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Astrobotic Awarded $5.6 Million NASA Contract to Deliver Autonomous Moon Rover

MoonRanger will traverse quickly over long distances using via autonomous surface navigation without communicating directly with Earth–a key breakthrough for short, two-week duration moon missions. (Credit: Astrobotic)

Astrobotic will lead development of MoonRanger with Carnegie Mellon University, a lunar rover that will test pioneering autonomy on the Moon

Pittsburgh, PA (Astrobotic PR) – Astrobotic was selected today by NASA’s Lunar Surface and Instrumentation and Technology Payload (LSITP) program to develop an autonomous lunar rover with its partner, Carnegie Mellon University. The 13 kilogram autonomous rover known as MoonRanger, is being developed to provide high fidelity 3D maps of the Moon’s surface in areas such as polar regions and lunar pits. It will demonstrate transformational high-speed, long-range, communication-denied autonomous lunar exploration.

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NASA Selects Astrobotic for Two SBIR Awards

Polaris rover (Credit: Astrobotic)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Astrobotic Technologies will develop a compact ground penetrating radar antenna to peer below the surfaces of other worlds and a low-power navigation system for use on CubeSats with the help of NASA funding.

The space agency selected the Pittsburgh-based company for two awards under its Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. Each award is worth up to $125,000 over six months.

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Astrobotic Selected by NASA to be a Lunar Delivery Provider

WASHINGTON, DC (Astrobotic PR) – Astrobotic has been competitively selected to be a delivery provider of NASA payloads to the Moon on the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) contract. Through CLPS, Astrobotic will be a 10-year provider of delivery services for NASA payloads to the Moon. The selection was announced today by NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.

As part of NASA’s plan to return to the Moon, CLPS is leveraging existing private sector services like Astrobotic to deliver their cargo shipments to the Moon. CLPS will enable the first NASA payloads to be soft-landed on the lunar surface since the Apollo Program, and open a new era in science and exploration with regular commercial deliveries of uncrewed payload to the lunar surface.

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NASA Chooses 9 Companies to Bid on Lunar Delivery Contracts

The moon rising over Half Moon Bay. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Nine U.S. companies now are eligible to bid on NASA delivery services to the lunar surface through Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) contracts, as one of the first steps toward long-term scientific study and human exploration of the Moon and eventually Mars.

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Frontier Aerospace Selected for NASA Award to Develop Deep Space Thruster Using MON-25/MMH Propellant

Frontier Aerospace and Astrobotic team to develop MON-25/MMH thruster for Peregrine Moon landing

PITTSBURGH, Pa. (Astrobotic/ Frontier Aerospace PR)  Frontier Aerospace Corporation is pleased to announce their selection by NASA’s Space Technology and Mission Directorate (STMD) for a “Tipping Point” award to provide flight qualification of Frontier’s Deep Space Engine (DSE) that utilizes MON-25/MMH propellant. The DSE engine will enable the design of smaller and less expensive propulsion systems for spacecraft as a result of the lower temperature freezing characteristics of MON-25/MMH propellant.

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Arch Mission Foundation Partners with Astrobotic to Launch Historic Lunar Library

PITTSBURGH, Pa. (Astrobotic PR) — The Arch Mission Foundation and Astrobotic today announced a partnership to land the Lunar Library™ on Astrobotic’s first mission to the Moon in 2020. The Lunar Library will last for up to billions of years on the Moon, continuing the Arch Foundation’s mission to preserve and disseminate humanity’s most important knowledge across time and space.

The foundational components of the Lunar Library will include the Wikipedia, and the Long Now Foundation’s Rosetta Project, a digital library of human languages. Additional content and data for the Lunar Library, will be announced in the coming year.

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NASA Cancels Lunar Resource Prospector, Promises Aggressive Commercial Strategy

The Resource Prospector prototype searches for a buried sample tube at the Johnson Space Center rock yard in August 2015. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

In a move that left the lunar science community stunned, NASA has canceled the Resource Prospector mission, which would have sent a rover to the moon to drill holes in search of ice and other volatiles that could be used to support human settlers and miners and turned into fuel to power spacecraft.

In place of the mission, which was set to launch in 2022, the space agency issued a draft request for proposal (RFP) on Friday for the new Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program. Under CLPS, NASA would pay companies to carry instruments and experiments to the lunar surface aboard privately-built landers and rovers.

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Praise for Space Policy Directive 1

Image Credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University

Praise is pouring in for Space Policy Directive 1, the Trump Administration’s document that focuses the nation’s civilian space program on returning astronauts to the moon.

Coalition for Deep Space Exploration

The Coalition for Deep Space Exploration (Coalition) welcomes Space Policy Directive-1 (SPD-1) signed today by President Trump, formalizing the commitment made by the Administration during the first meeting of the National Space Council to reinvigorate America’s deep space exploration program. The signing ceremony in the White House West Wing was attended by Coalition President and CEO Dr. Mary Lynne Dittmar together with the President, Vice President, members of Congress, NASA Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot and NASA astronauts – including Dr. Harrison “Jack” Schmitt, who together with the late Captain Eugene Cernan were the last Americans to visit the Moon during Apollo 17 exactly 45 years ago.

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A Look at NASA’s Plans to Explore the Moon

Image Credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University

Statement of Jason Crusan
Director, Advanced Exploration Systems Division
Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate
National Aeronautics and Space Administration

before the

Subcommittee on Space
Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
U. S. House of Representatives

SELECTED EXCERPTS

Lunar CATALYST: Promoting Private Sector Robotic Exploration of the Moon

As part of the Agency’s overall strategy to conduct deep space exploration, NASA is also supporting the development of commercial lunar exploration. In 2014, NASA introduced an initiative called Lunar Cargo Transportation and Landing by Soft Touchdown (CATALYST). The purpose of the initiative is to encourage the development of U.S. private-sector robotic lunar landers capable of successfully delivering payloads to the lunar surface using U.S. commercial launch capabilities.

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NASA Space Act Agreements with Virgin Galactic, Moon Express, NanoRacks and More

NASA has released a document listing the 1,206 active Space Act Agreements  (SAAs) the agency has with commercial companies, non-profit organizations and state and local governments.

From that list, I’ve extracted agreements with individual companies. Below you will find tables listing SAAs that NASA has signed with Virgin Group companies, Moon Express and NanoRacks. There is also a fourth table that has SAAs with a number of companies and organizations that we follow on Parabolic Arc.

SAAs come in three varieties: reimburseable, non-reimburseable and funded. Under reimburseable agreements, a company or organization will pay NASA for its services. No money exchanges hands under non-reimburseable agrements. And under funded agreements, NASA pays the company to perform work or provide services. (The space agency made substantial use of SAA’s in the Commercial Crew Program.)

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House Space Subcommittee to Hold Hearing on Private Lunar Exploration

Image Credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University

House Subcommittee on Space Hearing
Private Sector Lunar Exploration

Thursday, September 7, 2017 – 10:00am
2318 Rayburn House Office Building)

Hearing Purpose

NASA is supporting private sector exploration of the Moon through various programs. The private sector is also investing their own funding in the hopes of serving a future market for transportation, cargo delivery, and surface operations (including in situ resource utilization). Moon Express plans to launch a mission to the Moon later this year or early next year. Astrobotic recently announced a mission in 2019. Blue Origin disclosed its “Blue Moon” concept last spring. The United Launch Alliance and SpaceX have also indicated plans to operate in cislunar space in the near-future. The Hearing will review these efforts, and NASA’s role, in order to better understand the challenges and opportunities that they present.

Witnesses:

  • Mr. Jason Crusan, director, Advanced Exploration Systems, NASA
  • Mr. Bob Richards, founder and CEO, Moon Express, Inc.
  • Mr. John Thornton, chief executive officer, Astrobotic Technology, Inc.
  • Mr. Bretton Alexander, director of business development and strategy, Blue Origin
  • Dr. George Sowers, professor, space resources, Colorado School of Mines

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Astrobotic, ULA Plan 2019 Moon Landing


Pittsburgh (Astobotic PR) — Astrobotic and United Launch Alliance (ULA) proudly announce today that Astrobotic’s Peregrine Lunar Lander will be onboard a ULA launch vehicle in 2019, during the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11.

“Astrobotic is thrilled to select a ULA launch vehicle as the means to get Peregrine to the Moon,” said John Thornton, CEO of Astrobotic. “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.”

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Astrobotic Selected for NASA Small Business Award to Develop Lunar CubeRover


Astrobotic Technology has been selected for a NASA Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I contract to develop a new class of rover to evaluate conditions on the lunar surface.

“The proposed innovation is a Lunar CubeRover specialized as a 2 kg payload to evaluate lander ejecta and to characterize small-rover trafficability,” the proposal states. “This CubeRover and its roles are specific to the RFP though broadly more general and impactful for exploration enterprise.

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NSRC Day 3 Summary

Test flights will eventually take place on Masten Space Systems' Xaero vehicle. (Credit: Masten Space Systems)
Test flights will eventually take place on Masten Space Systems’ Xaero vehicle. (Credit: Masten Space Systems)

The Next Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference finished up today in Colorado. There were provider presentations from Masten Space Systems and Virgin Galactic. Three researchers also presented results from suborbital microgravity flights.

Below are summaries of the sessions based on Tweets.
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