NASA Delays VIPER Rover Launch to Moon, Gives Astrobotic More Money

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)

NASA Mission Update

NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative allows rapid acquisition of lunar delivery services from American companies for payloads that advance capabilities for science, exploration or commercial development of the Moon. Through CLPS, NASA contracted Astrobotic of Pittsburgh to deliver the agency’s Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) to the lunar surface in search of ice and other potential resources. The measurements returned by VIPER will provide insight into the origin and distribution of water on the Moon and help determine how the Moon’s resources could be harvested for future human space exploration. While VIPER was originally scheduled for lunar delivery by Astrobotic in November 2023, NASA has requested the Astrobotic and VIPER mission teams to adjust VIPER’s delivery to the Moon’s South Pole to November 2024.

NASA’s decision to pursue a 2024 delivery date results from the agency’s request to Astrobotic for additional ground testing of the company’s Griffin lunar lander, which will deliver VIPER to the lunar surface through CLPS. The additional tests aim to reduce the overall risk to VIPER’s delivery to the Moon. To complete the additional NASA-mandated tests of the Griffin lunar lander, an additional $67.8 million has been added to Astrobotic’s CLPS contract, which now totals $320.4 million. 

“Through CLPS, NASA has tasked U.S. companies to perform a very challenging technological feat – to successfully land and operate on the Moon,” said Joel Kearns, deputy associate administrator for exploration in NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “VIPER is NASA’s largest and most sophisticated science payload to be delivered to the Moon through CLPS, and we’ve implemented enhanced lander testing for this particular CLPS surface delivery.”

CLPS is a key part of NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration plans. The science and technology payloads sent to the Moon’s surface will help lay the foundation for human missions on and around the Moon. The agency has made seven task order awards to CLPS providers for lunar deliveries between in the early 2020s with more delivery awards expected through 2028.

For more information, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/clps

NASA’s VIPER Lunar Rover on Schedule for Late 2023 Launch

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)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) that will search for valuable water ice at the lunar south pole is running on schedule for a launch late next year, according to a review from the space agency’s Office of Inspector General (IG).

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Astrobotic Completes Griffin Lunar Test Model

Griffin structural test model (Credit: Astrobotic Technology)

With this major milestone complete, the Structural Test Model for the largest lunar lander since the Apollo Lunar Module is now headed for environmental testing.

PITTSBURGH (Astrobotic PR) — Astrobotic’s second lunar lander mission, Griffin Mission One (GM1), has completed a major milestone toward flight by completing its Griffin Structural Test Model (STM). This full-scale model will undergo a series of rigorous tests to inform the final flight build of the Griffin lunar lander, scheduled to begin this year.

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2021 in Review: Highlights from NASA in Silicon Valley

Ingenuity Mars helicopter flies on the Red Planet. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS)

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (NASA PR) — Join us as we look back at the highlights of 2021 at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley.

1) NASA’s water-hunting Moon rover, the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, made great strides this year. The VIPER team successfully completed practice runs of the full-scale assembly of the Artemis program’s lunar rover in VIPER’s new clean room. Two rounds of egress testing let rover drivers practice exiting the lander and rolling onto the rocky surface of the Moon. NASA also announced the landing site selected for the robotic rover, which will be delivered to the Nobile region of the Moon’s South Pole in late 2023 as part of the Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative. NASA also chose eight new VIPER science team members and their proposals to expand and complement VIPER’s already existing science team and planned investigations. This year’s progress contributed to VIPER’s completion of its Critical Design Review, turning the mission’s focus toward construction of the rover beginning in late 2022.

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NASA Glenn Continued Research in 2021 for Space Exploration and Next-Gen Aeronautics

Credit: NASA

CLEVELAND, Ohio (NASA PR) — Looking deeper at the way fire behaves in space, Glenn researchers delivered the fifth in a series of NASA investigations in January. The Spacecraft Fire Safety Experiment-V (Saffire-V) successfully tested larger, more dynamic fires for over 26 hours inside Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus spacecraft.

As NASA Glenn continued to manage the difficulties of the pandemic, scientific and technology research continued at a rapid clip this year with an eye toward the future.

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NASA Selects New Members for Artemis Rover Science Team

VIPER rover on the moon. (Credit: NASA)

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (NASA PR) — When NASA’s Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, or VIPER, explores and samples the soils at the Moon’s South Pole, scientists anticipate it will reveal answers to some of the Moon’s enduring mysteries. Where is the water and how much is there? Where did the Moon’s water come from? What other resources are there?

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Astrobotic’s Hazard Detection System to Take Flight

Credit: Astrobotic

Astrobotic leading the way in Hazard Detection for space missions with latest NASA award.

PITTSBURGH, PA Tuesday, December 28, 2021 (Astrobotic PR) — Astrobotic announced today it was selected to receive funding for its LiDAR-based Hazard Detection sensor (LHD) as part of the NASA Flight Opportunities TechFlights solicitation. This LHD sensor will assist in the safe landing of Astrobotic’s Griffin lander, the largest lunar lander since Apollo’s Lunar Module. Griffin will be carrying NASA’s Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, or VIPER, to the lunar surface.

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NASA’s Artemis Rover to Land Near Nobile Region of Moon’s South Pole

A data visualization showing the mountainous area west of Nobile Crater and the smaller craters that litter its rim at the lunar South Pole. The region features areas permanently covered in shadow as well as areas that are bathed in sunlight most of the time. The terrain in the Nobile region is most suitable for the VIPER rover to navigate, communicate, and characterize potential water and other resources. (Credits: NASA)

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (NASA PR) — In 2023, NASA’s Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) will land near the western edge of the Nobile Crater at the Moon’s South Pole to map and explore the region’s surface and subsurface for water and other resources. Part of Artemis, VIPER will launch on a SpaceX Falcon-Heavy rocket for delivery to the Moon by Astrobotic’s Griffin lander under NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative.

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NASA to Announce Landing Site for Artemis Lunar Robotic Rover

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)

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley invites members of the news media to a media teleconference Monday, Sept. 20 at 1 p.m. PDT, to announce the lunar landing site for the agency’s Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, or VIPER. Ames manages the VIPER mission, and leads the mission’s science, systems engineering, real-time rover surface operations, and flight software.

The rover will be delivered to the Moon’s surface in late 2023 under the Artemis program and part of the agency’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative.

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Apollo to Artemis: Drilling on the Moon

This mini-panorama combines two photographs taken by Apollo 15 lunar module pilot Jim Irwin, from the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package (ALSEP) site, at the end of the second Apollo 15 moonwalk on August 1, 1971. Scott is leaning to his right and is putting down the Apollo Lunar Surface drill used to take core samples and set up a heat flow experiment. The Solar Wind Spectrometer is in the right foreground. The min-pan of photographs AS15-11845 and 11847 was combined by Erik van Meijgaarden, volunteer contributor to the Apollo Lunar Surface Journal site. (Credits: Erik van Meijgaarden)

By Leejay Lockhart
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

Fifty years ago, Apollo 15 lifted off from Kennedy Space Center, sending Commander David R. Scott, Command Module Pilot Alfred M. Worden, and Lunar Module Pilot James B. Irwin on the first of three Apollo “J” missions. These missions gave astronauts the opportunity to explore the Moon for longer periods using upgraded and more plentiful scientific instruments than ever before. Apollo 15 was the first mission where astronauts used the Apollo Lunar Surface Drill (ALSD) and the Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV).

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New Maps Help Developers Plan Lunar Road Trip for VIPER’s Artemis Mission

VIPER rover on the moon. (Credit: NASA)

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (NASA PR) — As any seasoned road-tripper knows, to get the most out of an adventure, a good map helps. It’s no different for NASA’s first lunar robotic rover planned for delivery to the Moon in late 2023 to search for ice and other resources on and below the lunar surface. The Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, or VIPER, is part of the agency’s Artemis program. Without a Moon travel guide, VIPER’s mission planners are creating new high resolution, digital elevation maps of the lunar surface.

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Astrobotic MoonRanger Moves into Final Production

MoonRanger (Credit: Astrobotic)

PITTSBURGH (Astrobotic PR) — Astrobotic announced today that MoonRanger, an autonomous rover that will explore the lunar South Pole in 2022, passed NASA’s Key Decision Point (KDP) review and is in the final stage of the payload preparation phase, culminating in flight hardware fabrication.

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NASA Artemis Program Faces Significant Challenges on Human Lunar Landing in 2024

Artist concept of the SpaceX Starship on the surface of the Moon. (Credits: SpaceX)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The combination of an ambitious schedule, technical challenges and immature technology will make it difficult for NASA to meet its goal of landing two astronauts on the moon in 2024, according to a new assessment by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

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NASA Rover to Search for Water, Other Resources on 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) — As part of the Artemis program, NASA is planning to send its first mobile robot to the Moon in late 2023 in search of ice and other resources on and below the lunar surface. Data from the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, or VIPER, would help the agency map resources at the lunar South Pole that could one day be harvested for long-term human exploration at the Moon. 

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