Commercial Moon Missions Given Boost by New NASA Funding

Planetary Markets
August 28, 2018
Author
Chad Anderson
Jessica Holland
August 28, 2018
Authors
Chad Anderson
Jessica Holland

The moon still looks a long way away when we gaze up at the night sky, but a new round of NASA funding shows just how committed the agency is to getting to know that enigmatic rock more intimately. Six companies working on “tipping-point” technologies were selected in early August to receive a combined $44m of NASA funding. It’s part of a larger plan that involves the agency partnering with the commercial space sector to meet ambitious exploration and research goals.

Of this total amount, $30 million is split evenly between three key companies: Blue Origin and United Launch Alliance, who are working on new types of propulsion and power; and space robotics company Astrobotic Technology, which is developing a new, low-cost suite of sensors to help guide its robotic landers safely onto the moon’s surface. The aim is to eventually improve the performance of NASA’s landing missions, NASA’s statement says, and the project will culminate in a “lunar technology demonstration mission.”

Astrobotic was founded in Pittsburgh in 2008 with the goal of winning the Google Lunar X Prize by landing the first robotic craft on the moon. The company has since graduated from the prize and plans to start delivering its first lightweight payloads to the moon by 2020, selling space on its Peregrine lander to other companies and agencies for $1.2m per kg. Once these customer payloads have landed safely, the lander will provide them with power and connectivity to help them carry out their job, whether that’s conducting scientific research, capturing a virtual-reality experience for marketing purposes, or something else entirely.

Major NASA contract for robotic lunar mission to follow in 2019

The next 12 months could be transformative for Astrobotic. NASA is currently looking to sign contracts with businesses that can send small robotic landers and rovers to the moon: exactly the type of service that the company will provide. This Commercial Lunar Payload Services program will give a serious boost to the companies it chooses for these missions, and the first formal solicitation is expected to happen in 2019.

The substantial investment made by NASA’s tipping-point fund into Astrobotic isn’t the only demonstration of the agency’s belief in the company’s abilities. An additional $1.9 million from the $44m tipping-point fund announced in August was allocated to the California-based Frontier Aerospace Corporation to develop its new Deep Space Engine, which will be demonstrated on the first Astrobotic Peregrine Lunar Lander mission.

NASA has a history of selecting Astrobotic for lucrative awards and contracts stretching back almost a decade, and it unveiled two more the day before the tipping-point announcement. Totaling $250,000, these latest funds will go towards the development of new software for Astrobotic’s lunar lander and techniques to help its rovers navigate lunar terrain.

Small commercial missions will prove capabilities

“We’re building capability we haven’t had since 1972,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine told those gathered at the third National Space Council meeting in June 2018, and added that the technology being developed to get Americans to the moon “will ultimately get us to Mars.” He outlined his vision of a competitive commercial market, with half a dozen providers vying to provide access to the moon, and NASA acting as one of many customers.

Commercial lunar delivery services are part of NASA’s long-term plan for lunar development that also involves mining the moon for resources, including water. We’ve known since 2010 that there are potentially hundreds of millions of tons of ice crystals on the moon, much of it preserved in shadowy craters at the poles, where scientists speculate it has accumulated after bombardments of icy asteroids. Split into hydrogen and oxygen, this water could propel rockets and one day potentially fuel crewed journeys deep into space.

Astrobotic Peregrine Lander

To prospect for these resources, heavy landers will be eventually needed, but first, NASA is focusing on purchasing capabilities to deliver small to medium payloads. That fits neatly with Astrobotic’s model; the company’s Peregrine lander measures just 1.5 by 2.5 meters and can carry up to 35kg of cargo. The vehicle will reach orbit as a secondary payload on a commercial launch vehicle: its first lander to reach the moon will be on board a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket in 2020.

NASA’s plans are ambitious, ‘but we’ve started’

“The whole world is realising the moon is the next place to go,” Astrobotic CEO John Thornton said in the inaugural episode of our Space Angels Podcast, dedicated to the topic of commercial lunar ambitions, back in September 2017. “Domestically, US Space Policy was reset with the election, and now we’re seeing a strong shift back to the moon. We’re right on the cusp of a big market shift.”

That shift is happening now, as the new round of NASA funding confirms. “The opportunities before us are immense,” Jim Bridenstine told the NSC in June. His brief was to update the council on the progress of Space Policy Directive 1, which instructs NASA to refocus its energies on human exploration and discovery to the moon, Mars and the deeper solar system beyond. “We’ve got a long ways to go,” he said, “but we’ve started. And, certainly, we want to get back to the moon as quickly as possible.”

The moon still looks a long way away when we gaze up at the night sky, but a new round of NASA funding shows just how committed the agency is to getting to know that enigmatic rock more intimately. Six companies working on “tipping-point” technologies were selected in early August to receive a combined $44m of NASA funding. It’s part of a larger plan that involves the agency partnering with the commercial space sector to meet ambitious exploration and research goals.

Of this total amount, $30 million is split evenly between three key companies: Blue Origin and United Launch Alliance, who are working on new types of propulsion and power; and space robotics company Astrobotic Technology, which is developing a new, low-cost suite of sensors to help guide its robotic landers safely onto the moon’s surface. The aim is to eventually improve the performance of NASA’s landing missions, NASA’s statement says, and the project will culminate in a “lunar technology demonstration mission.”

Astrobotic was founded in Pittsburgh in 2008 with the goal of winning the Google Lunar X Prize by landing the first robotic craft on the moon. The company has since graduated from the prize and plans to start delivering its first lightweight payloads to the moon by 2020, selling space on its Peregrine lander to other companies and agencies for $1.2m per kg. Once these customer payloads have landed safely, the lander will provide them with power and connectivity to help them carry out their job, whether that’s conducting scientific research, capturing a virtual-reality experience for marketing purposes, or something else entirely.

Major NASA contract for robotic lunar mission to follow in 2019

The next 12 months could be transformative for Astrobotic. NASA is currently looking to sign contracts with businesses that can send small robotic landers and rovers to the moon: exactly the type of service that the company will provide. This Commercial Lunar Payload Services program will give a serious boost to the companies it chooses for these missions, and the first formal solicitation is expected to happen in 2019.

The substantial investment made by NASA’s tipping-point fund into Astrobotic isn’t the only demonstration of the agency’s belief in the company’s abilities. An additional $1.9 million from the $44m tipping-point fund announced in August was allocated to the California-based Frontier Aerospace Corporation to develop its new Deep Space Engine, which will be demonstrated on the first Astrobotic Peregrine Lunar Lander mission.

NASA has a history of selecting Astrobotic for lucrative awards and contracts stretching back almost a decade, and it unveiled two more the day before the tipping-point announcement. Totaling $250,000, these latest funds will go towards the development of new software for Astrobotic’s lunar lander and techniques to help its rovers navigate lunar terrain.

Small commercial missions will prove capabilities

“We’re building capability we haven’t had since 1972,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine told those gathered at the third National Space Council meeting in June 2018, and added that the technology being developed to get Americans to the moon “will ultimately get us to Mars.” He outlined his vision of a competitive commercial market, with half a dozen providers vying to provide access to the moon, and NASA acting as one of many customers.

Commercial lunar delivery services are part of NASA’s long-term plan for lunar development that also involves mining the moon for resources, including water. We’ve known since 2010 that there are potentially hundreds of millions of tons of ice crystals on the moon, much of it preserved in shadowy craters at the poles, where scientists speculate it has accumulated after bombardments of icy asteroids. Split into hydrogen and oxygen, this water could propel rockets and one day potentially fuel crewed journeys deep into space.

Astrobotic Peregrine Lander

To prospect for these resources, heavy landers will be eventually needed, but first, NASA is focusing on purchasing capabilities to deliver small to medium payloads. That fits neatly with Astrobotic’s model; the company’s Peregrine lander measures just 1.5 by 2.5 meters and can carry up to 35kg of cargo. The vehicle will reach orbit as a secondary payload on a commercial launch vehicle: its first lander to reach the moon will be on board a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket in 2020.

NASA’s plans are ambitious, ‘but we’ve started’

“The whole world is realising the moon is the next place to go,” Astrobotic CEO John Thornton said in the inaugural episode of our Space Angels Podcast, dedicated to the topic of commercial lunar ambitions, back in September 2017. “Domestically, US Space Policy was reset with the election, and now we’re seeing a strong shift back to the moon. We’re right on the cusp of a big market shift.”

That shift is happening now, as the new round of NASA funding confirms. “The opportunities before us are immense,” Jim Bridenstine told the NSC in June. His brief was to update the council on the progress of Space Policy Directive 1, which instructs NASA to refocus its energies on human exploration and discovery to the moon, Mars and the deeper solar system beyond. “We’ve got a long ways to go,” he said, “but we’ve started. And, certainly, we want to get back to the moon as quickly as possible.”

The moon still looks a long way away when we gaze up at the night sky, but a new round of NASA funding shows just how committed the agency is to getting to know that enigmatic rock more intimately. Six companies working on “tipping-point” technologies were selected in early August to receive a combined $44m of NASA funding. It’s part of a larger plan that involves the agency partnering with the commercial space sector to meet ambitious exploration and research goals.

Of this total amount, $30 million is split evenly between three key companies: Blue Origin and United Launch Alliance, who are working on new types of propulsion and power; and space robotics company Astrobotic Technology, which is developing a new, low-cost suite of sensors to help guide its robotic landers safely onto the moon’s surface. The aim is to eventually improve the performance of NASA’s landing missions, NASA’s statement says, and the project will culminate in a “lunar technology demonstration mission.”

Astrobotic was founded in Pittsburgh in 2008 with the goal of winning the Google Lunar X Prize by landing the first robotic craft on the moon. The company has since graduated from the prize and plans to start delivering its first lightweight payloads to the moon by 2020, selling space on its Peregrine lander to other companies and agencies for $1.2m per kg. Once these customer payloads have landed safely, the lander will provide them with power and connectivity to help them carry out their job, whether that’s conducting scientific research, capturing a virtual-reality experience for marketing purposes, or something else entirely.

Major NASA contract for robotic lunar mission to follow in 2019

The next 12 months could be transformative for Astrobotic. NASA is currently looking to sign contracts with businesses that can send small robotic landers and rovers to the moon: exactly the type of service that the company will provide. This Commercial Lunar Payload Services program will give a serious boost to the companies it chooses for these missions, and the first formal solicitation is expected to happen in 2019.

The substantial investment made by NASA’s tipping-point fund into Astrobotic isn’t the only demonstration of the agency’s belief in the company’s abilities. An additional $1.9 million from the $44m tipping-point fund announced in August was allocated to the California-based Frontier Aerospace Corporation to develop its new Deep Space Engine, which will be demonstrated on the first Astrobotic Peregrine Lunar Lander mission.

NASA has a history of selecting Astrobotic for lucrative awards and contracts stretching back almost a decade, and it unveiled two more the day before the tipping-point announcement. Totaling $250,000, these latest funds will go towards the development of new software for Astrobotic’s lunar lander and techniques to help its rovers navigate lunar terrain.

Small commercial missions will prove capabilities

“We’re building capability we haven’t had since 1972,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine told those gathered at the third National Space Council meeting in June 2018, and added that the technology being developed to get Americans to the moon “will ultimately get us to Mars.” He outlined his vision of a competitive commercial market, with half a dozen providers vying to provide access to the moon, and NASA acting as one of many customers.

Commercial lunar delivery services are part of NASA’s long-term plan for lunar development that also involves mining the moon for resources, including water. We’ve known since 2010 that there are potentially hundreds of millions of tons of ice crystals on the moon, much of it preserved in shadowy craters at the poles, where scientists speculate it has accumulated after bombardments of icy asteroids. Split into hydrogen and oxygen, this water could propel rockets and one day potentially fuel crewed journeys deep into space.

Astrobotic Peregrine Lander

To prospect for these resources, heavy landers will be eventually needed, but first, NASA is focusing on purchasing capabilities to deliver small to medium payloads. That fits neatly with Astrobotic’s model; the company’s Peregrine lander measures just 1.5 by 2.5 meters and can carry up to 35kg of cargo. The vehicle will reach orbit as a secondary payload on a commercial launch vehicle: its first lander to reach the moon will be on board a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket in 2020.

NASA’s plans are ambitious, ‘but we’ve started’

“The whole world is realising the moon is the next place to go,” Astrobotic CEO John Thornton said in the inaugural episode of our Space Angels Podcast, dedicated to the topic of commercial lunar ambitions, back in September 2017. “Domestically, US Space Policy was reset with the election, and now we’re seeing a strong shift back to the moon. We’re right on the cusp of a big market shift.”

That shift is happening now, as the new round of NASA funding confirms. “The opportunities before us are immense,” Jim Bridenstine told the NSC in June. His brief was to update the council on the progress of Space Policy Directive 1, which instructs NASA to refocus its energies on human exploration and discovery to the moon, Mars and the deeper solar system beyond. “We’ve got a long ways to go,” he said, “but we’ve started. And, certainly, we want to get back to the moon as quickly as possible.”

The moon still looks a long way away when we gaze up at the night sky, but a new round of NASA funding shows just how committed the agency is to getting to know that enigmatic rock more intimately. Six companies working on “tipping-point” technologies were selected in early August to receive a combined $44m of NASA funding. It’s part of a larger plan that involves the agency partnering with the commercial space sector to meet ambitious exploration and research goals.

Of this total amount, $30 million is split evenly between three key companies: Blue Origin and United Launch Alliance, who are working on new types of propulsion and power; and space robotics company Astrobotic Technology, which is developing a new, low-cost suite of sensors to help guide its robotic landers safely onto the moon’s surface. The aim is to eventually improve the performance of NASA’s landing missions, NASA’s statement says, and the project will culminate in a “lunar technology demonstration mission.”

Astrobotic was founded in Pittsburgh in 2008 with the goal of winning the Google Lunar X Prize by landing the first robotic craft on the moon. The company has since graduated from the prize and plans to start delivering its first lightweight payloads to the moon by 2020, selling space on its Peregrine lander to other companies and agencies for $1.2m per kg. Once these customer payloads have landed safely, the lander will provide them with power and connectivity to help them carry out their job, whether that’s conducting scientific research, capturing a virtual-reality experience for marketing purposes, or something else entirely.

Major NASA contract for robotic lunar mission to follow in 2019

The next 12 months could be transformative for Astrobotic. NASA is currently looking to sign contracts with businesses that can send small robotic landers and rovers to the moon: exactly the type of service that the company will provide. This Commercial Lunar Payload Services program will give a serious boost to the companies it chooses for these missions, and the first formal solicitation is expected to happen in 2019.

The substantial investment made by NASA’s tipping-point fund into Astrobotic isn’t the only demonstration of the agency’s belief in the company’s abilities. An additional $1.9 million from the $44m tipping-point fund announced in August was allocated to the California-based Frontier Aerospace Corporation to develop its new Deep Space Engine, which will be demonstrated on the first Astrobotic Peregrine Lunar Lander mission.

NASA has a history of selecting Astrobotic for lucrative awards and contracts stretching back almost a decade, and it unveiled two more the day before the tipping-point announcement. Totaling $250,000, these latest funds will go towards the development of new software for Astrobotic’s lunar lander and techniques to help its rovers navigate lunar terrain.

Small commercial missions will prove capabilities

“We’re building capability we haven’t had since 1972,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine told those gathered at the third National Space Council meeting in June 2018, and added that the technology being developed to get Americans to the moon “will ultimately get us to Mars.” He outlined his vision of a competitive commercial market, with half a dozen providers vying to provide access to the moon, and NASA acting as one of many customers.

Commercial lunar delivery services are part of NASA’s long-term plan for lunar development that also involves mining the moon for resources, including water. We’ve known since 2010 that there are potentially hundreds of millions of tons of ice crystals on the moon, much of it preserved in shadowy craters at the poles, where scientists speculate it has accumulated after bombardments of icy asteroids. Split into hydrogen and oxygen, this water could propel rockets and one day potentially fuel crewed journeys deep into space.

Astrobotic Peregrine Lander

To prospect for these resources, heavy landers will be eventually needed, but first, NASA is focusing on purchasing capabilities to deliver small to medium payloads. That fits neatly with Astrobotic’s model; the company’s Peregrine lander measures just 1.5 by 2.5 meters and can carry up to 35kg of cargo. The vehicle will reach orbit as a secondary payload on a commercial launch vehicle: its first lander to reach the moon will be on board a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket in 2020.

NASA’s plans are ambitious, ‘but we’ve started’

“The whole world is realising the moon is the next place to go,” Astrobotic CEO John Thornton said in the inaugural episode of our Space Angels Podcast, dedicated to the topic of commercial lunar ambitions, back in September 2017. “Domestically, US Space Policy was reset with the election, and now we’re seeing a strong shift back to the moon. We’re right on the cusp of a big market shift.”

That shift is happening now, as the new round of NASA funding confirms. “The opportunities before us are immense,” Jim Bridenstine told the NSC in June. His brief was to update the council on the progress of Space Policy Directive 1, which instructs NASA to refocus its energies on human exploration and discovery to the moon, Mars and the deeper solar system beyond. “We’ve got a long ways to go,” he said, “but we’ve started. And, certainly, we want to get back to the moon as quickly as possible.”

Commercial Moon Missions Given Boost by New NASA Funding
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The moon still looks a long way away when we gaze up at the night sky, but a new round of NASA funding shows just how committed the agency is to getting to know that enigmatic rock more intimately. Six companies working on “tipping-point” technologies were selected in early August to receive a combined $44m of NASA funding. It’s part of a larger plan that involves the agency partnering with the commercial space sector to meet ambitious exploration and research goals.

Of this total amount, $30 million is split evenly between three key companies: Blue Origin and United Launch Alliance, who are working on new types of propulsion and power; and space robotics company Astrobotic Technology, which is developing a new, low-cost suite of sensors to help guide its robotic landers safely onto the moon’s surface. The aim is to eventually improve the performance of NASA’s landing missions, NASA’s statement says, and the project will culminate in a “lunar technology demonstration mission.”

Astrobotic was founded in Pittsburgh in 2008 with the goal of winning the Google Lunar X Prize by landing the first robotic craft on the moon. The company has since graduated from the prize and plans to start delivering its first lightweight payloads to the moon by 2020, selling space on its Peregrine lander to other companies and agencies for $1.2m per kg. Once these customer payloads have landed safely, the lander will provide them with power and connectivity to help them carry out their job, whether that’s conducting scientific research, capturing a virtual-reality experience for marketing purposes, or something else entirely.

Major NASA contract for robotic lunar mission to follow in 2019

The next 12 months could be transformative for Astrobotic. NASA is currently looking to sign contracts with businesses that can send small robotic landers and rovers to the moon: exactly the type of service that the company will provide. This Commercial Lunar Payload Services program will give a serious boost to the companies it chooses for these missions, and the first formal solicitation is expected to happen in 2019.

The substantial investment made by NASA’s tipping-point fund into Astrobotic isn’t the only demonstration of the agency’s belief in the company’s abilities. An additional $1.9 million from the $44m tipping-point fund announced in August was allocated to the California-based Frontier Aerospace Corporation to develop its new Deep Space Engine, which will be demonstrated on the first Astrobotic Peregrine Lunar Lander mission.

NASA has a history of selecting Astrobotic for lucrative awards and contracts stretching back almost a decade, and it unveiled two more the day before the tipping-point announcement. Totaling $250,000, these latest funds will go towards the development of new software for Astrobotic’s lunar lander and techniques to help its rovers navigate lunar terrain.

Small commercial missions will prove capabilities

“We’re building capability we haven’t had since 1972,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine told those gathered at the third National Space Council meeting in June 2018, and added that the technology being developed to get Americans to the moon “will ultimately get us to Mars.” He outlined his vision of a competitive commercial market, with half a dozen providers vying to provide access to the moon, and NASA acting as one of many customers.

Commercial lunar delivery services are part of NASA’s long-term plan for lunar development that also involves mining the moon for resources, including water. We’ve known since 2010 that there are potentially hundreds of millions of tons of ice crystals on the moon, much of it preserved in shadowy craters at the poles, where scientists speculate it has accumulated after bombardments of icy asteroids. Split into hydrogen and oxygen, this water could propel rockets and one day potentially fuel crewed journeys deep into space.

Astrobotic Peregrine Lander

To prospect for these resources, heavy landers will be eventually needed, but first, NASA is focusing on purchasing capabilities to deliver small to medium payloads. That fits neatly with Astrobotic’s model; the company’s Peregrine lander measures just 1.5 by 2.5 meters and can carry up to 35kg of cargo. The vehicle will reach orbit as a secondary payload on a commercial launch vehicle: its first lander to reach the moon will be on board a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket in 2020.

NASA’s plans are ambitious, ‘but we’ve started’

“The whole world is realising the moon is the next place to go,” Astrobotic CEO John Thornton said in the inaugural episode of our Space Angels Podcast, dedicated to the topic of commercial lunar ambitions, back in September 2017. “Domestically, US Space Policy was reset with the election, and now we’re seeing a strong shift back to the moon. We’re right on the cusp of a big market shift.”

That shift is happening now, as the new round of NASA funding confirms. “The opportunities before us are immense,” Jim Bridenstine told the NSC in June. His brief was to update the council on the progress of Space Policy Directive 1, which instructs NASA to refocus its energies on human exploration and discovery to the moon, Mars and the deeper solar system beyond. “We’ve got a long ways to go,” he said, “but we’ve started. And, certainly, we want to get back to the moon as quickly as possible.”

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