Astrobotic Technology

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.

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

The first launch of one of its spacecraft, the Peregrine lunar lander, is expected to take place in Q4 2021 [2]. On 11 June 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 late 2023.[3]

HistoryEdit

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 28 July 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 15 October 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 the reins.[11]

On 30 April 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 2 June 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 29 November 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 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 25 September 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 24 January 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]

Commercial payload pricingEdit

As of 2018, payload delivery to lunar orbit is US$300,000/kg; delivery to the lunar surface is US$1,200,000/kg; and US$2,000,000/kg for deploying a rover.[26]

Lunar missionsEdit

Icebreaker (canceled)Edit

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".[27][28] The launch date slipped to 2015, and it was first named Polar Excavator, and then Icebreaker, that would target the lunar north pole.[29] This expedition's rover was to be Polaris.[30][31] A model of the Polaris rover was unveiled in October 2012,[32] and the company indicated that they were still under contract to SpaceX for a Falcon 9 mission.[33] 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 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 prices.[34][35] The Griffin lander was never built, and Icebreaker mission was not launched.

Mission OneEdit

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.[36] The Mission One is planned to be launched in July 2021.[36][2]

By May 2019, its first lunar lander mission, simply called Mission One, had 14 commercial payloads including small rovers from Hakuto, Team AngelicvM,[37] and a larger rover from the Carnegie Mellon University named Andy that has a mass of 33 kg (73 lb) and is 103 cm tall.[38] An unusual miniature rover (1.5 kg (3.3 lb)) called Spacebit is included, and it moves on four legs.[39][40][41] It is a technological demonstrator and will travel a distance of at least 10 m (33 ft).[42] 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.[43][44]

On 29 November 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.[45][46] Therefore, in addition of the 14 commercial payloads, the lander will carry 14 NASA-sponsored payloads, for a total of 28.[47]

Peregrine will carry a maximum payload mass of 90 kg (200 lb) during Mission One,[48] 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.[26] 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).[26]

SpacecraftEdit

Peregrine landerEdit

Peregrine
 
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) [26]
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][49] 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.[50] Each thruster produces 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.[26] 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.[51] For attitude control (orientation), the spacecraft uses twelve thrusters (45 N each) also powered by MON-25/MMH.[26]

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.[26] 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][52][26][53]

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,[26] which lasts 14 Earth days. Future missions could be adapted to do so.[26]

For communications to Earth, the lander uses different frequencies within the X-band range for uplink as well as downlink.[26] Following landing, a 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi modem enables wireless communication between the lander and deployed rovers on the lunar surface.[26]

Payload suppliersEdit

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
@andres
Future Grind [54]
Surrey Satellite Technology
United Launch Alliance (ULA)
Cobham [55]
ABSL
Frontier Aerospace
Northrop Grumman [55]
Belgium2theMoon [56]

Payloads on PeregrineEdit

Lunar roversEdit

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

InstrumentsEdit

Country Name Agency or company
  Mexico ? Mexican space agency
  USA Lunar laser ATLAS Space Operations
  USA Terrain Relative Navigation Astrobotic Technology
  Canada STEM payload [57] Canadensys
  USA 14 instruments NASA
  UK state-of-the-art data relay-services Surrey Satellite Technology
  Germany star tracker Berlin Space Technologies

Time capsulesEdit

Country Name Agency or company Type
  Hungary Memory of Mankind on the Moon Puli Space Technologies Time capsule
  Japan Lunar Dream Time Capsule [58] Astroscale Time capsule
  USA Lunar Library Arch Mission Foundation Time capsule
  Germany DHL MoonBox DHL Commercial payload capsules
  USA MoonArk [59] Carnegie Mellon University Lunar Museum
  USA Memorial Space Flight Services Elysium Space Memorial capsule
  USA Luna 02 Celestis Memorial capsule
    Nepal Everest Summit Rock [60] Kanjirowa National School Art with rock fragment
  USA Lunar Seed Em Vega Book
world VLC media player Time capsule

DHL MoonBoxEdit

Country Name Agency, company or person
  UK Anthony Henderson
  USA Gray Crater 1 SWIRVRO
  USA Conrad Moonwalker Drive The Conrad Foundation
  USA I Need More Moon TJ Cooney
  USA moon my name Ian Sager
  USA HopeMoonshot [61] Pennsylvania State University
  USA Digital Files [62] Future Grind
  Canada The Lunar Codex [63][64] Artists on the Moon / Incandence
  UK Astro liz lab sticker [65] Astro liz labs
  Belgium Belgium2theMoon Timecapsule [66] Belgium2theMoon[67]
  UK Apollo Remastered Andy Saunders
  Germany ToTheMoonWithDHL DHL
  USA Kennywood Token Heinz History Center
  USA International Library on the Moon Writers on the Moon[68]
  USA MoonBox MrBeast[69]
    Nepal Nepal Robotics payload Nepal Robotics Project
  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[70]
  UK Great Baddow High School

Other spacecraftEdit

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

CanceledEdit

Country Name Agency or company Type
  UK ? Lunar Mission One instrument
  Mexico Mexico moon rover Mexican space agency Microrovers

Griffin landerEdit

NASA's VIPER will be landed on the larger Griffin lander (450 kg).[71]

RoversEdit

Astrobotic has a line of three rovers called Polaris, CubeRover, and MoonRanger.[72]

  • The Polaris rover was unveiled in October 2012,[73][74][75] and it was to be used on a now cancelled mission called Icebreaker to the lunar north pole using their Griffin lander and deliver "a small rover and up to about 110 kg (240 lb) of payload to the surface of the Moon".[76][77]
  • CubeRover is a class of planetary rovers with a standardized format meant to accelerate the pace of space exploration. The idea is equivalent to that of the successful CubeSat format, with a standardized architecture to assemble new units that will be all compatible, modular, and inexpensive.[78] The rover class concept is being developed by Astrobotic Technology in partnership with Carnegie Mellon University, and it is partly funded by NASA awards.[78] The principal investigator of the program is Andrew Horchler. The first derivative of a CubeRover, a spinoff rover called Iris developed by CMU students, is planned to be deployed on the Moon in 2021 on board Astrobotic's Peregrine lander.[79][80][2][81]
  • MoonRanger is a 13 kg (29 lb) rover being developed to carry payloads on the Moon for NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS). The US$5.6 million contract was awarded to Astrobotic and its partner Carnegie Mellon University on 1 July 2019.[72][82] Launch is envisioned for either 2021 or 2022.[82][83] The rover will carry science payloads yet to be determined and developed by other providers, that will focus on scouting and creating 3D maps of a polar region for signs of water ice or lunar pits for entrances to Moon caves.[83][84] The rover would operate mostly autonomously for up to one week.[84]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

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External linksEdit