Astrobotic Technology, Inc.
TypePrivate
IndustryAerospace, robotics
Founded2007; 15 years ago (2007)
Headquarters
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
Key people
Products
  • Autonomous robots
  • Space systems
  • Space payloads
  • Robotic spacecraft
  • Telerobotics
Number of employees
50-100 (As of July 1, 2012)
Websitehttp://www.astrobotic.com

Astrobotic Technology is an American privately held company that is developing space robotics technology for lunar and planetary missions. It was founded in 2007 by Carnegie Mellon professor Red Whittaker and his associates, with the goal of winning the Google Lunar X Prize.[1] The company is based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The first launch of one of its spacecraft, the Peregrine lunar lander, is expected to take place in late 2022.[2]

On June 11, 2020, Astrobotic received a second contract for the Commercial Lunar Payload Services program. NASA will pay Astrobotic US$199.5 million to carry the VIPER rover. Astrobotic will take NASA's VIPER rover to the lunar surface in November 2024.[3]

History

The team stated a goal from the start in 2007: to be the first commercial operation to land their Red Rover on the Moon, using their Artemis Lander.[4] The company's first running prototype of Red Rover was completed the same year, and the concept lander was renamed Griffin.[5]

On July 28, 2008, NASA awarded Astrobotic funding for a concept study on "regolith moving methods",[6] and the next year, Astrobotic began to receive Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) funding from NASA totaling over US$795,000 to investigate prospecting for lunar resources,[7] which eventually led to a concept called Polar Excavator.

On October 15, 2010, NASA awarded a contract to Astrobotic for Innovative Lunar Demonstrations Data (ILDD) firm-fixed-price indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contracts with a total value up to US$30.1 million over a period of up to five years, and in December 2010, NASA's US$500,000 ILDD project for further Lunar Demonstrations Data was awarded to Astrobotic.[8]

Astrobotic's "Technologies Enabling Exploration of Skylights, Lava Tubes, and Caves", was a Phase I selection for NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC).[9] In April 2011, Astrobotic received a US$599,000 two-year contract to develop a scalable gravity offload device for testing rover mobility in simulated lunar gravity under NASA's Small Business Technology Transfer Program (STTR).[10]

In May 2012, David Gump left the position of President of Astrobotic and John Thornton took his place.[11]

On April 30, 2014, NASA announced that Astrobotic Technology was one of the three companies selected for the Lunar CATALYST initiative.[12] NASA was negotiating a 3-year no-funds-exchanged Space Act Agreement (SAA) where the Griffin lander may be involved.[13] The CATALYST agreement was extended in October 2017 for 2 years.[14]

On June 2, 2016, Astrobotic Technology announced a new design of its Griffin concept lander and named it Peregrine.[15] Airbus Defence and Space signed a memorandum of understanding to provide engineering support for Astrobotic as it refines the lander's design. In December 2016, Astrobotic slipped their estimated launch date to 2019 and separated from the Google Lunar X Prize.[16]

On November 29, 2018, Astrobotic was declared eligible to bid on NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services to deliver science and technology payloads to the Moon.[17] Astrobotic's successful bid entailed a US$79.5 million contract to deliver payloads to Lacus Mortis. Astrobotic set an initial target of fourteen payloads to launch starting in July 2021.[18][19]

In September 2019, Spacebit signed an agreement to deliver the first UK lunar rover Asagumo on Astrobotic's upcoming mission in 2021 and named this "Spacebit mission one".[20][21]

On September 25, 2019, John Thornton of Astrobotic was named CEO of the Year by the Pittsburgh Technology Council at the 23rd annual Tech50 awards ceremony.[22][23]

On January 24, 2021, MrBeast, a YouTuber, announced that he would be placing a payload, a hard drive containing large numbers of digital image files submitted by anyone who contributed US$10 via his online store, on the Peregrine lander.[24][25]

In June 2021, the maiden flight of Vulcan Centaur, carrying the first Peregrine lander as its payload, was delayed to 2022 due to payload and engine testing delays.[26]

In November 2021, Astrobotic Technology was named one of the 'World's Best Employers in the Space Industry' by Everything Space, a recruitment platform specializing in the space industry.[27]

Commercial payload pricing

As of 2018, payload delivery to lunar orbit is $300,000 per kilogram ($140,000/lb); delivery to the lunar surface is $1,200,000 per kilogram ($540,000/lb); and $2,000,000 per kilogram ($910,000/lb) for deploying a rover.[28]

Lunar missions

Icebreaker (canceled)

In April 2011, Astrobotic contracted with SpaceX for a Falcon 9 launch of a lunar north pole mission for as early as December 2013. The mission was intended to launch the Griffin lander and deliver "a small rover and up to about 110 kg (240 lb) of payload to the surface of the Moon".[29][30] The launch date slipped to 2015, and it was first named Polar Excavator, and then Icebreaker, that would target the lunar north pole.[31] This expedition's rover was to be Polaris.[32][33] A model of the Polaris rover was unveiled in October 2012,[34] and the company indicated that they were still under contract to SpaceX for a Falcon 9 mission.[35] The launch date further slipped to 2016, and Astrobotic contracted with two other GLXP teams including Team Hakuto and Team AngelicvM to share the launch expenses. The agreement was to launch the rovers of all teams on a single SpaceX Falcon 9 v1.1 which would then use the Astrobotic Griffin lander. After landing on the lunar surface, all teams would have competed against each other to achieve the specific GLXP objectives and earn the various prizes.[36][37] The Griffin lander was never built, and Icebreaker mission was not launched.

Mission One

In July 2017, Astrobotic announced an agreement had been reached with United Launch Alliance (ULA) to launch their Peregrine lander aboard a Vulcan Centaur launch vehicle.[38] This first lunar lander mission, called Mission One, was initially planned to be launched in July 2021.[38][39]

By May 2019, Mission One had 14 commercial payloads including small rovers from Hakuto, Team AngelicvM,[40] and a larger rover from the Carnegie Mellon University named Andy that has a mass of 33 kg (73 lb) and is 103 cm (41 in) tall.[41] A small rover, weighing 1.5 kg (3.3 lb), named Spacebit is included, and it moves on four legs.[42][43][44] It is a technological demonstrator and will travel a distance of at least 10 m (33 ft).[45] Other payloads aboard the lander is a library, in micro print on nickel, which will include Wikipedia contents and Long Now Foundation's Rosetta Project.[46][47]

On November 29, 2018, Astrobotic was made eligible to bid on NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) to deliver science and technology payloads to the Moon,[17] and in May 2019, it was awarded its first lander contract for NASA.[48][49] Therefore, in addition to the 14 commercial payloads, the lander will carry 14 NASA-sponsored payloads, for a total of 28.[50]

In June 2021, United Launch Alliance CEO Tory Bruno announced that the maiden flight of Vulcan Centaur, with Mission One aboard, had been delayed to 2022 due to payload and engine testing delays.[26] As of April 2022, Mission One is expected to be launched in late 2022.[2]

Peregrine will carry a maximum payload mass of 90 kg (200 lb) during Mission One,[51] and it is planned to land on Lacus Mortis, a relatively flat plateau at 44°N 25°E, and operate for about 8 Earth days.[28] The payload mass for the planned second mission (Mission Two) is capped at 175 kg (386 lb), and the Mission Three and later missions would carry the full payload capacity of 265 kg (584 lb).[28]

Spacecraft

Peregrine lander

Peregrine
NASA Selects First Commercial Moon Landing Services for Artemis Program (47974859117).jpg
Peregrine model
ManufacturerAstrobotic Technology
DesignerAstrobotic Technology and
Airbus Defence and Space
Country of originUnited States
OperatorAstrobotic Technology
ApplicationsCommercial lunar transport
Specifications
Spacecraft typeCruise, lunar orbit and surface operations
Launch massMission 1: 1,283 kg (2,829 lb) [28]
Payload capacityUp to 265 kg (584 lb)
Power30 watts
BatteriesLithium-ion
Design lifeOne lunar day (14 days Earth)
Dimensions
Length1.9 m (6 ft 3 in)
Diameter2.5 m (8 ft 2 in)
Production
StatusIn development
Launched0

The Peregrine lander was announced in 2016.[15] It inherits designs from their previous concept lander called Griffin, which was larger but with the same payload capacity.[15][52] Astrobotic had contracted Airbus Defence and Space to provide additional engineering support as they refine the lander's design.

Peregrine bus structure is mainly manufactured out of aluminum alloy, and it is reconfigurable for specific missions. Its propulsion system features a cluster of five thrusters, built by Frontier Aerospace.[53] Each thruster produces 150 lb (667 N) thrust. This propulsion system would propel the trans-lunar injection, trajectory corrections, lunar orbit insertion, and powered descent. The propulsion system is capable of delivering an orbiter to the Moon and then performing a powered soft landing.[28] The lander would carry up to 450 kg (990 lb) of bi-propellant mass in four tanks; its composition is MON-25 /MMH, a hypergolic bi-propellant.[54] For attitude control (orientation), the spacecraft uses twelve thrusters (45 N each) also powered by MON-25/MMH.[28]

The spacecraft's avionics systems incorporate guidance and navigation to the Moon, and a Doppler LiDAR to assist the automated landing on four legs.[15] Its landing ellipse narrowed to 100 m x 100 m starting with Mission 2 from a previous 24 km × 6 km.[28] Peregrine is about 2.5 m wide and 1.9 m tall, and it would be able to deliver up to 265 kg (584 lb) of payload to the surface of the Moon.[15][55][28][56]

Its electrical systems will be powered by a lithium-ion battery that is recharged by a solar panel made of GaInP/GaAs/Ge. Radiators and thermal insulators are used to dispose of excess heat, but the lander does not carry heaters, so the first few Peregrine landers are not expected to survive the lunar night,[28] which lasts 14 Earth days. Future missions could be adapted to do so.[28]

For communications to Earth, the lander uses different frequencies within the X-band range for uplink as well as downlink.[28] Following landing, a 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi modem enables wireless communication between the lander and deployed rovers on the lunar surface.[28]

Payload suppliers

NASA
Agencia Espacial Mexicana
Canadensys Aerospace
DHL
Writers on the Moon
Artists on the Moon
Incandence
Airbus Defence and Space
Spacebit
Carnegie Mellon University
Dymon
ATLAS Space Operations
Puli Space Technologies
Astroscale
Arch Mission Foundation
Team AngelicvM
Elysium Space
Celestis
Bosch
Pennsylvania State University
WiBotic
Kanjirowa National School
MrBeast
Dynetics
MyFriendsOnTheMoon
Future Grind [57]
Surrey Satellite Technology
United Launch Alliance (ULA)
Cobham[58]
ABSL
Frontier Aerospace
Northrop Grumman[58]
Belgium2theMoon [59]

Payloads on Peregrine

Lunar rovers

Country Name Agency or company
 USA Iris (formerly known as Andy) Carnegie Mellon University
 UK Asagumo Spacebit
 Chile Unity Team AngelicvM
 Japan Yaoki Dymon
 Mexico Colmena UNAM
 Hungary Team Puli Puli Space Technologies

Instruments

Country Name Agency or company
 Mexico ? Mexican space agency
 USA Lunar laser ATLAS Space Operations
 USA Terrain Relative Navigation Astrobotic Technology
 Canada STEM payload [60] Canadensys
 USA 14 instruments NASA
 UK state-of-the-art data relay-services Surrey Satellite Technology
 Germany M-42 DLR
 USA AON3D M2+ printer AON3D

Time capsules

Country Name Agency or company Type
 Hungary Memory of Mankind on the Moon Puli Space Technologies Time capsule
 Japan Lunar Dream Time Capsule[61] Astroscale Time capsule
 USA Lunar Library 2.0 Arch Mission Foundation Time capsule
 Germany DHL MoonBox DHL Commercial payload capsules
 USA MoonArk[62] Carnegie Mellon University Lunar Museum
 USA Memorial Space Flight Services Elysium Space Memorial capsule
 USA Luna 02 Celestis Memorial capsule
   Nepal Everest Summit Rock [63] Kanjirowa National School Art with rock fragment
 USA Lunar Seed Em Vega Book
 France VLC lunar time capsule VideoLAN Time capsule
 Seychelles Moon Bitcoin BitMEX cryptocurency
 USA altcoin to the Moon SuperBid.io cryptocurency
 USA Moonshot Museum Memory Card

DHL MoonBox

Country Name Agency, company or person
 USA Gray Crater 1 SWIRVRO
 USA Conrad Moonwalker Drive The Conrad Foundation
 USA HopeMoonshot [64] Pennsylvania State University
 USA Digital Files [57] Future Grind
 Canada The Lunar Codex [65][66] Incandence
 UK Astro Liz's Lab sticker [67] Astro Liz's Lab
 Belgium Belgium2theMoon Timecapsule [68] Belgium2theMoon[59]
 UK Apollo Remastered Andy Saunders
 Germany ToTheMoonWithDHL DHL
 USA Kennywood Token Heinz History Center
 USA International Library on the Moon Writers on the Moon[69]
 USA MoonBox MrBeast[70]
   Nepal Nepal Robotics payload Nepal Robotics Project
 USA I Need More Moon TJ Cooney
 USA Moon my name Ian Sager
 USA Consmith Capsule Matthew Congrove
 USA Dogecoin to the Moon Dogecoin
 USA u/Valphon
 USA Howdy Bots - FRC #6377
 USA Balko Public School
 USA Big Brothers Big Sisters of America
 UK Into the Red // PRE-SAVE TO THE MOON
 USA Ohio PC Solutions
 Canada 2 the Moon! For Real
 USA GadgetNate
 USA Civil Air Patrol and Cornell NanoScale Science and Technology Facility
 USA The Earthling Project [71]
 UK Anthony Henderson
 UK Great Baddow High School

Other spacecraft

Country Name Agency or company Type
 Mexico Hive UNAM Lander
 Ecuador and  Colombia Ecuadorian Civilian Space Agency and the Colombian Space Agency Satellite technology

Canceled

Country Name Agency or company Type
 UK "Asagumo" Lunar Mission One instrument
 Mexico Mexico Moon rover Mexican space agency Microrovers

Griffin lander

The Griffin lander is targeted to land in a region of interest in the south polar region of the Moon in November 2024.[3] The spacecraft is expected to operate for 100 days after its landing. NASA's VIPER will be the main payload on the larger Griffin lander (450 kg).[72] VIPER will investigate permanently shadowed regions of craters located in the moon's south pole, specifically for potential deposits of water ice that could be used as resources for future crewed missions. Other commercial payloads are on board the Griffin lander, including the Lunar Codex's Polaris archive of contemporary culture as one of the commercial sub-payloads of Astrobotics' MoonBox initiative.[73]

Rovers

Astrobotic has a line of three rovers called Polaris, CubeRover, and MoonRanger.[74]

See also

References

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