The Next NASA Robots on the Moon

Air & Space Magazine reports that “the Next Robots on the Moon NASA’s plan to return to the moon begins with a fleet of robot landers. The space agency has turned to private industry to realize these ambitions, and there are now more than a dozen companies, large and small, building a new generation of robotic lunar landers.”

“In May 2019, NASA awarded task orders to three of them: Astrobotic Technology, located in Pittsburgh; Edison, New Jersey-based OrbitBeyond, and Intuitive Machines. (OrbitBeyond cancelled its task order two months later, hobbled by financial issues.) Astrobotic plans to deliver 11 payloads to the moon next year. Its destination is Lacus Mortis, a large crater on the near side. Intuitive Machines will also carry packages to the moon next year. It has six payloads going to Oceanus Procellarum, a lunar “sea” that appears as a dark spot on the moon due to its basalt lava surface. In late 2023, Astrobotic will return with another set of payloads—to the Lunar South Pole. Also in 2023, a third vendor, Firefly Aerospace, will carry experiments to “a non-polar region of the moon,” and a fourth, Masten Space Systems, is contracted to “deliver and operate” eight payloads to the Lunar South Pole.

“The centerpiece of the small caravan of pickup trucks and towed trailers is a flatbed with ‘rocket engines mounted on the back—what the IM staff call their Mobile Test Stand. ‘Instead of building a $500,000 test facility somewhere remote, we bought a $16,000 truck and converted it,” says Intuitive Machines CEO Steve Altemus. For the exciting details, please visit Air & Space Magazine.

Thanks to CDR David Place (USN/Ret), davidplace47[at]gmail[dot]com, and Robin E. Alexander, President ATC, alexander technical[at]gmail[dot]com, for their assistance with this report, the background for which appeared in their  # 21 - 29 - 8 DECEMBER 2021 edition of the UNMANNED SYSTEMS NEWS (USN).

David distributes the USN, a free, comprehensive newsletter in PDF format every week or two, as well as serial news flashes, from which this NREF news update was sourced. To be included in his distribution, simply send a subscribe request to davidplace47[at]gmail[dot]com.