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Home / Science / NASA selects three companies to send commercial lander to the moon – Spaceflight Now

NASA selects three companies to send commercial lander to the moon – Spaceflight Now



Artist concept by Astrobotics Peregrine Lunar Lander. Credit: Astrobotic

NASA has announced that Astrobotic, Intuitive Machines and OrbitBeyond have signed contracts for the delivery of scientific instruments and payloads to demonstrate the technology on the lunar surface as part of a series of robot missions that preceded man's return to the moon have received.

The three companies are developing commercial lunar lander that can transport experiments, sensors and small rovers to the moon. Astrobotic, Intuitive Machines and OrbitBeyond are among the nine companies that NASA selected last November to enter into contracts with the Space Agency's Commercial Lunar Payload Services program to bring lunar surface scientific instruments to the landing of Astronauts on the Moon until 2024, a target set by the Trump administration in March, which presented the agency's earlier plans for a moon landing for four years. NASA has named the accelerated lunar landing program Artemis, the goddess of the moon and sister of Apollo, in Greek mythology.

"Under the Artemis program, these CLPS vendors are setting the trend for our return to the Moon precursor emissions before landing the first woman and the next man on the lunar surface in 2024," said Steve Clarke, Deputy Administrator of Exploration NASA's Science department.

Astrobotic, Intuitive Machines and OrbitBeyond will have more than $ 250 million in common to deliver up to 23 NASA-supported payloads to the Moon. NASA plans to allocate science and technology demonstration tools to each of its countries over the coming months.

The company's goal is to become the first private units to successfully perform a soft landing on the Moon first landing a US lunar lunar since the launch of the Apollo 17 mission from the lunar surface in December 1972.

OrbitBeyond says he can reach the Moon next year

OrbitBeyond is a new name in the commercial market for Lunar Module. However, the New Jersey-based company manages a consortium of subcontractors who designed and developed space missions hardware. Team Indus, an Indian company, is responsible for the development of the lander of Orbit Beyond. The payload integration tasks will be handled by Honeybee Robotics, which has built hardware for NASA's multiple Marslanders.

According to OrbitBeyond, the company's Lunar Module Z-01 lander will be ready to land on the Moon in September 2020. Its contract with NASA is worth $ 97 million, and OrbitBeyond will fly up to four payloads of NASA to the moon-borne Mare Imbrium region, a lunar plane on the lunar side.

The OrbitBeyond Lander is based on a design developed by TeamIndus, an Indian team that once fought for the Google Lunar X Prize. TeamIndus does not have the right to participate in CLPS contracts that US companies can participate in.

OrbitBeyond from New Jersey wants to build its lunar countries in Florida, reusing the design of the Indian team. The Lander Z-01 can carry about 40 kilograms of payload to the lunar surface.

Siba Padhi, President and CEO of OrbitBeyond, said NASA's CLPS program will encourage additional private lunar transportation investment.

"We look forward to supporting NASA on its mission to the Moon (in 2024)," said Padhi in a teleconference with reporters Friday.

OrbitBeyond plans to launch the rover with a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

"The launch vehicle is on our critical path, so to speak, because we want to get into the very busy manifesto in the next few years. So we'll look at SpaceX," said Jon Morse, Chief Science Officer of OrbitBeyond.

OrbitBeyond's Lunar Z-01. Credit: OrbitBeyond

In addition to a number of NASA and payloads, the OrbitBeyond lander will also be taking a small rover to do a test drive across the lunar surface.

"When we land, the rover falls off and it goes. It has a stereoscopic camera, "said Morse. "We as a company need to learn how to perform surface mobility and operations with our partners."

According to Padhi, OrbitBeyond is still in the process of securing full funding for the development of the Z-01 lander. The company already has a spacecraft development model and has made prepayments for flight hardware, Padhi said.

OrbitBeyond counts Ceres Robotics and Honeybee Robotics as key partners in its commercial lunar lander program.

Astrobotics Wanderlander to ascend to the moon in 2021

In the case of Astrobotics, Dynetics and Airbus Defense and Space are supporting the development of Wanderlander, a robotic vehicle that travels about 6.2 feet NASA's mandate for Astrobotic to bring 14 of the agency's scientific payload to the Moon is $ 79.5 million. Headquartered in Pittsburgh, Astrobotic plans to land its first Peregrine mission in Lacus Mortis by July 2021, a large crater with surrounding lava on the near side of the Moon.

The Peregrine is the first of a family of planned Landers of Astrobotic. Like OrbitBeyond, Astrobotic once applied for the defunct Google Lunar X award, which ended last year without a winner.

"As a nation, we have not landed on the lunar surface for 46 years, so we have to go back," said John Thornton, CEO of Astrobotic. "We need to start small and then get bigger and bigger."

Thornton said Astrobotic conducted a preliminary design review of the Peregrine last year and will build a structural test model to complete Wanderland's critical design review later this year, completing the spacecraft's design phase and launching mass production for the Peregrine Mark launch in June 2021.

"We are now fully funded for the mission (and) ready to launch," said Thornton, "We still have a handful of payload customers … We will close the manifesto very, very soon but overall we are on the move and ready for a landing in July "21." [19659003] Previously had Astrobotic 14 payloads from eight nations booked for the first hiking landing. This list contains microrovers that can be used to travel short distances on the moon. NASA's Astrobotic contract doubled the mission's payload to 28 instruments.

Sharrad Bhaskaran, Mission Director at Astrobotic, said the Wanderlander will weigh around 1,400 kg (3,100 pounds) of fuel for the launch. The spaceship will be able to carry up to 90 kilograms of payload mass to the moon.

Astrobotic previously said the first Peregrine mission would fly into space as a secondary payload aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket. but Thornton said Friday that the company will make a final launch pick within a few weeks.

"We will drive as a secondary (payload)," said Thornton. "We have been in partnership with ULA for a number of years, and we have had a relationship with SpaceX, and we will literally announce our launch in the coming weeks so that we are within the timeframe for our landing date

Intuitive Machines relies on the Landing Technology developed by NASA

Intuitive Machines is the largest lander of the three Companies that signed contracts last week for the delivery of NASA payloads

The Nova-C Lander can carry up to 100 kg of payload for scientific and technological demonstrations to the Moon According to Intuitive Machines from Houston, the Nova-C – Landers will reach each location on the Moon and, like Astrobotics spaceship Peregrine, will be ready for the first moon landing by July 2021.

"This is a fast-paced program Therefore, the two-year timeline is definitely aggressive," said Steve Altemus, president and CEO of Intuitive Machines.

Artist concept of the Nova-C-Lander by Intuitive Machines. Credit: Intuitive Machines

Intuitive Machines was founded in 2013 by Kam Ghaffarian, an aerospace entrepreneur, with Altemus and Tim Crain, both former NASA engineers. NASA's Intuitive Machines Nuclear Contract has a value of $ 77 million for launching and landing up to five instruments at Oceanus Procellarum or Ocean of Storms, a huge lava near the Moon.

While the countries developed by OrbitBeyond and Astrobotic use hydrazine fuel, a liquid is used, the Intuitive Machines plans to use a landing motor fed with supercooled liquid methane and liquid oxygen. The use of cryogenic blowing agents increases the complexity, especially when it comes to protecting the liquids from warming up in the sunlight. However, the engine offers higher performance and could be a building block for larger countries, Altemus said.

The engine of the Nova-C lander may be throttled To control the descent, Crain said, and the vehicle is equipped with technology to avoid dangers such as craters, boulders, and steep slopes.

"We have some known risks for a cryogenic propulsion system due to its scalability. I can do that very well," said Altemus. "So we have some challenges in the management of cryogenic fluids for the development of the Moon Landlord, but we believe that we have them well in hand."

"I am proud to say that we have our LOX / methane Fire engine with the flight software on a flight processor, "said Altemus. "We fired test shots last week and next week, and throughout the summer we'll be doing that to improve the performance of the propulsion systems and software."

Altemus said Intuitive Machines has a "fully developed" lander and is "Fully funded" to support a moon landing in July 2021.

The Nova-C attributes much of its design heritage to the Morpheus Project, a tech demonstration project conducted by engineers at NASA's Johnson Space Center. A methane powered descent engine, hazard avoidance sensors, and other landing gear on the Moon during a series of tests at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida from 2012 to 2014.

Intuitive Machines Plans to Launch the Nova-C Lander as a Primary Payload According to Altemus, to be part of a multi-mission rideshare launch In the next few years, further contracts with the nine CLPS providers will be awarded to a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket by contractors eligible for lunar payload competition.

"Hopefully, we want to accomplish a few missions a year and then maybe the period" # 23 or # 24 "(increase). This cadence of three or four missions per year, which are carried out in several places on the lunar surface. "

One of NASA's key capabilities for developing and demonstrating commercial enterprises is surface mobility. NASA has asked the nine CLPS providers to submit study contract proposals outlining their plans to develop Rovers to serve as scouts near the Moon South Pole, where the Trump administration has called on NASA to 2024 to land astronauts.

"This is the beginning of building a robust cadence of missions returning to the Moon. We will do scientific research, we will do technology demonstrations, we will do ISRU (In Situ Resource Utilization). One important thing is much of what we do. We will be on our way to human exploration of the lunar surface. Much of what we do for precursor emissions before 2024 will inform us. "

But the commercial lunar landing program is risky. None of the three CLPS contract winners ever launched a space mission, but their lunar landing projects include partnerships with major aerospace companies.

The first private facility to attempt a moon landing was SpaceIL, an Israeli nonprofit organization that developed the Beresheet Lander, which crashed on a moon landing in April. The Israeli team is in the early stages of planning a follow-up mission called Beresheet 2.

"I'm very confident that these three companies will succeed here," Clarke said. "As with anything difficult – space travel is difficult – I do not doubt that there will be some technical challenges on the way in the next two years, but that is to be expected … I have no doubt that we will land successfully on the moon in the next two years. "

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has compared the CLPS program with" shots on goal ", a sport analogy that does not expect every shot to land on the net.

Clarke says he believes the commercial industry is mature enough to make the CLPS program a success, but said, "Time will tell if this model works."

NASA received eight proposals from the list of CLPS providers, and the agency chose astrobotic, intuitive machines and OrbitBeyond.

"I have great faith in these three companies, based on the fact that we have issued delivery orders and received proposals, and these three companies have shown what I would call credible, well thought out, with a timeline and costs their plans, and they have identified the risks along the way, "said Clarke.

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @ StephenClark1 .


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