Astrobotic Selects SpaceX Falcon Heavy Rocket for Griffin-VIPER Moon Mission

Griffin Lander. (Credit: Astrobotic Technology)

PITTSBURGH (Astrobotic PR) — Astrobotic announced today its selection of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket in a competitive commercial procurement to launch its Griffin lunar lander to the Moon in late 2023. Griffin will be carrying NASA’s water-hunting Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER). 

“Getting to the Moon isn’t just about building a spacecraft, but having a complete mission solution. SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy completes our Griffin Mission 1 (GM1) solution by providing a proven launch vehicle to carry us on our trajectory to the Moon. SpaceX has the team, vehicle, and facilities to make this happen,” says Daniel Gillies, GM1 Director for Astrobotic. 

Astrobotic was awarded a task order in 2020 from NASA to deliver VIPER to the south pole of the Moon as part of the agency’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative. After Falcon Heavy launches Griffin on a trajectory to the Moon, Griffin will land on the surface and VIPER will disembark from Griffin’s ramps to survey the surface and subsurface for water ice.

Robotic systems engineer Emily McBryan runs a test of one element of the design that will keep Moon dust out of the wheel components of the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, or VIPER, Feb. 3, 2020, at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. The whole wheel unit is shrouded in a flexible, protective cover that will both insulate it from the cold on the Moon and seal it against dust. VIPER is a mobile robot that will go to the South Pole of the Moon to prospect for water as part of NASA’s Artemis program. (Credits: NASA/James Blair)

These surveys could be the first step toward utilizing resources in the space environment – rather than carting them all from Earth – to enable more affordable and sustainable space exploration. Griffin’s delivery of VIPER will be Astrobotic’s second CLPS delivery, following the company’s Peregrine lander delivery later this year. 

“Having previously sat on the other side of the table as a former SpaceX Mission Manager, I am fully aware of SpaceX’s capabilities and processes and am excited to be working with SpaceX on a mission once again. My first exposure to Falcon Heavy was as a SpaceX Mission Integrator on the STP-2 mission and I’m proud to be utilizing that same launch vehicle for Griffin,” says Gillies.

“Gaining a better learning of resources on the Moon is critical to advancing humanity’s reach beyond Earth, and we are honored to support this exciting mission and NASA’s CLPS program,” said SpaceX Senior Director of Commercial Sales Stephanie Bednarek.

Griffin Mission One is targeted to launch in 2023 from SpaceX’s facilities at Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida – the same launch site employed for the NASA Space Shuttle program, Commercial Crew Program, and Apollo missions. Work on the Griffin lunar lander is ongoing with qualification testing planned to be completed towards the end of this year.