NASA Selects Astrobotic to Fly Water-Hunting VIPER Rover to the Moon

NASA’s Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, or VIPER, is a mobile robot that will roam around the Moon’s south pole looking for water ice. The VIPER mission will give us surface-level detail of where the water is and how much is available for us to use. (Credit: NASA Ames/Daniel Rutter)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has awarded Astrobotic of Pittsburgh $199.5 million to deliver NASA’s Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) to the Moon’s South Pole in late 2023.

The water-seeking mobile VIPER robot will help pave the way for astronaut missions to the lunar surface beginning in 2024 and will bring NASA a step closer to developing a sustainable, long-term presence on the Moon as part of the agency’s Artemis program.

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NASA to Announce Selection of Company to Fly VIPER Rover to Moon

NASA’s Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, or VIPER, is a mobile robot that will roam around the Moon’s south pole looking for water ice. The VIPER mission will give us surface-level detail of where the water is and how much is available for us to use. This will bring us a significant step closer towards NASA’s ultimate goal of a sustainable, long-term presence on the Moon – making it possible to eventually explore Mars and beyond. (Credit: NASA Ames/Daniel Rutter)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA will announce the commercial provider selected to deliver NASA’s new water-hunting mobile robot, the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER), to the South Pole of the Moon during a media teleconference at 2:30 p.m. EDT Wednesday, June 10. 

As the first resource-mapping mission on the surface of another world, VIPER will help pave the way for a new era of human missions to the lunar surface and will bring NASA a step closer to developing a sustainable, long-term robotic and human presence on the Moon as part of the Artemis program.

The teleconference audio will stream live at:

https://www.nasa.gov/live

Supporting materials also will be available at nasa.gov/live.

VIPER’s delivery to the Moon is part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative, an innovative, service-based, competitive acquisition approach that enables rapid, affordable, and frequent access to the lunar surface via a growing market of American commercial providers. The selected company will be responsible for end-to-end services for delivery of VIPER, including integration with its lander, launch from Earth, and landing in a polar region on the Moon in late 2023.

For more information about NASA’s VIPER mission, visit:

https://nasa.gov/viper

Moon Mark Announces Student Rover Race on Lunar Surface

Credit; Moon Mark

HOUSTON, Texas (Moon Mark PR) – Moon Mark, a multi-media entertainment and education content company, has announced a partnership with Houston-based Intuitive Machines, who’s on track to become the first private aerospace company to land on the Moon. The companies will team up to launch the first-ever high school competition to race vehicles on the surface of the Moon. Mission 1 is slated for 2021.

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Meet 8 Teams Sending Payloads to the Moon on Masten’s Lander

Masten’s XL-1 lunar lander will deliver science and technology payloads to the Moon’s South Pole in 2022. (Credits: Masten Space Systems)

MOJAVE, Calif. (Masten Space Systems PR) — Imagine having the opportunity to send your payload to the lunar surface. Not next decade, but in 2022!

Well, that’s the incredible opportunity that the NASA Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) project — and Masten Space Systems — has presented for 8 visionary teams and their instruments. Each and every one is cool in their own way and we couldn’t be prouder to be the lunar lander company that will set them down safely on the surface of the Moon. 

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Masten Space Working on Lunar Regolith Models

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Masten Space Systems will continue to work on developing reliable, high-fidelity models of lunar regolith thrown up by landing vehicles with the help of NASA Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.

The goal is to ensure reliable and safe landings for robotic and crewed spacecraft that will land on the moon under NASA’s Artemis and Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) programs.

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Astrobotic Developing Ground Penetrating Radar with NASA Funding

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA has selected Astrobotic Technology for additional funding to continue development of a compact, highly efficient ground penetrating radar (GPR) antenna that will allow rovers to characterize resources under the surface of the moon and other planets.

“The benefits of such technology could enable the characterization of lunar lava tubes, subsurface water-ice, and the location of planetary ore deposits in a manner that is both affordable and simple to integrate with larger systems,” Astrobotic said in its proposal summary.

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NASA Releases PRISM Call for Potential Lunar Surface Investigations

Commercial landers like this will carry science and technology payloads, including one built by UC Berkeley, to the lunar surface, paving the way for NASA astronauts to land on the Moon by 2024. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA hopes to capture a broader spectrum of information from the scientific community for potential future payloads to deliver to the lunar surface through the agency’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative.

Responses to the new Payloads and Research Investigations on the Surface of the Moon (PRISM) request for information (RFI) will help NASA generate an internal database of investigations that could ultimately make up the manifest of future CLPS deliveries. In addition, the information collected will help determine future CLPS landing sites and new lander capabilities that need to be developed to broaden the spectrum of future lunar surface investigations.

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Intuitive Machines Chooses Lunar Landing Site for October 2021 Mission

Southeast view across Vallis Schröteri with labels. East is towards Aristarchus on the top left and south is towards Oceanus Procellarum on the top right. (Credit: Intuitive Machines)

HOUSTON (Intuitive Machines PR) — Intuitive Machines (IM) engineers selected an area in Oceanus Procellarum near Vallis Schröteri as the landing site for its upcoming IM-1 lunar mission with an anticipated launch date in October 2021.

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When the Moon Dust Settles, It Won’t Settle in VIPER’s Wheels

Robotics engineer Jason Schuler performs a preliminary test to prepare for dust testing of various seals for the wheel motors on NASA’s Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, or VIPER, March 17, 2020, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The test takes place in a bin holding more than 120 tons of simulated lunar regolith – loose dirt, dust and rock – that is used to help simulate the properties of the lunar surface. (Credits: NASA)

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (NASA PR) — Moon dust is a formidable adversary – the grains are as fine as powder and as sharp as tiny shards of glass. During the Apollo 17 mission to the Moon, the astronauts lamented how the dust found its way into everything, coating their spacesuits and jamming the shoulder joints, getting inside their lunar habitat and even causing symptoms of a temporary “lunar dust hay fever” in astronaut Harrison Schmitt. Those symptoms fortunately went away quickly – but the problem of Moon dust remains for future missions.

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NASA Awards $75.9 Million Contract to Masten Space Systems to Deliver Payloads to Moon

Masten’s XL-1 lunar lander will deliver science and technology payloads to the Moon’s South Pole in 2022. (Credits: Masten Space Systems)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected Masten Space Systems of Mojave, California, to deliver and operate eight payloads – with nine science and technology instruments – to the Moon’s South Pole in 2022, to help lay the foundation for human expeditions to the lunar surface beginning in 2024.

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Moon Thrusters Withstand Over 60 Hot-Fire Tests

NASA and Frontier Aerospace are developing next-generation thrusters for use on Astrobotic’s Peregrine lunar lander. In March 2020, thruster prototypes performed over 60 hot-fire tests in a vacuum chamber. (Credits: Frontier Aerospace)

NIAGARA FALLS, Calif. (NASA PR) — Future Artemis lunar landers could use next-generation thrusters, the small rocket engines used to make alterations in a spacecraft’s flight path or altitude, to enter lunar orbit and descend to the surface. Before the engines make the trip to the Moon, helping deliver new science instruments and technology demonstrations, they’re being tested here on Earth.

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NASA Asks Commercial Moon Delivery Partners to Fly Rover to Search for Water Ice

NASA’s Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, or VIPER, is a mobile robot that will roam around the Moon’s south pole looking for water ice. The VIPER mission will give us surface-level detail of where the water is and how much is available for us to use. This will bring us a significant step closer towards NASA’s ultimate goal of a sustainable, long-term presence on the Moon – making it possible to eventually explore Mars and beyond. (Credit: NASA Ames/Daniel Rutter)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA is asking its 14 Commercial Lunar Payload Services companies to bid on flying VIPER to the Moon by 2023. VIPER, or Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, is a golf-cart sized mobile robot that will look for water ice at one of the Moon’s poles. 

During its mission, VIPER will roam several miles and use its four science instruments — including a 1-meter drill — to sample various soil environments. It will collect up to 100 days of data that will be used to inform the first global water resource maps of the Moon. 

VIPER will help NASA get a close-up view of the location and concentration of water ice that could eventually be harvested to sustain human exploration on the Moon, and helppave the way for astronaut missions to the Moon beginning in 2024.

The ability to send payloads of varying sizes to the Moon is a key part of NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration efforts. NASA already has awarded two companies with missions to deliver science to the Moon in 2021, and issued a separate task order in early February for companies to bid on delivering eight additional science payloads in 2022.

The Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative is leveraging the capabilities of commercial industry to send scientific instruments and technology demonstrations to the Moon quickly. NASA expects to issue a regular series of task order proposal requests to expand the scope of agency payloads requiring transportation services to the lunar surface ahead of human landings.

Future payloads could include other rovers, power sources, additional science experiments, or other equipment and technologies needed for astronaut expeditions on the lunar surface.

http://www.nasa.gov/viper

https://www.nasa.gov/content/commercial-lunar-payload-services

Blue Moon Program Fact Sheet

Blue Moon crewed landing vehicle. (Credit: Blue Origin)

Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin released a fact sheet about its programs when it opened its new Huntsville manufacturing facility on Monday. Below is an excerpt on the company’s advanced development programs and Blue Moon lunar lander.

BLUE ORIGIN FACT SHEET

Advanced Development Programs

Blue Origin is developing advanced technologies to enable space exploration and development, including a NASA Tipping Point contract to mature cryogenic liquid propulsion for integrated large-scale lunar lander applications and several years of progress on the Blue Moon Lunar Lander and its BE-7 lunar landing engine.

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First Commercial Moon Delivery Assignments to Advance Artemis

The Moon as seen from the International Space Station (Credit: ESA/NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — NASA has finalized the first 16 science experiments and technology demonstrations, ranging from chemistry to communications, to be delivered to the surface of the Moon under the Artemis program. Scheduled to fly next year, the payloads will launch aboard the first two lander deliveries of the agency’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative. These deliveries will help pave the way for sending the first woman and the next man to the lunar surface by 2024.

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2019: A Busy Year in Suborbital Flight

Blue Origin’s New Shepard reusable, suborbital rocket. (Credits: Blue Origin)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Last year was a busy one for suborbital flights as Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic conducted a combined four flights of their crewed suborbital vehicles. Despite hopes to the contrary, neither company flew paying tourists on their spaceships.

There were also 26 sounding rocket launches that carried scientific experiments and technology payloads above the atmosphere. The year saw:

  • Japanese startup Interstellar Technologies conduct a successful launch of its Momo commercial sounding rocket;
  • Texas-based Exos Aerospace continue to struggle with its reusable SARGE booster; and,
  • the first suborbital launch ever achieved by college students.
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