GLXP Update: Astrobotic Will Carry Competitors’ Rovers to the Moon

Griffin Lander. (Credit: Astrobotic Technology)
Griffin Lander. (Credit: Astrobotic Technology)

PITTSBURGH, Penn. (Astrobotic PR) — Astrobotic Technology has invited its competitors for the Google Lunar XPRIZE to fly aboard its Griffin lander to the Moon, setting up the first extraterrestrial race as the lunar rovers sprint to the finish line to win a prize in excess of $20 million.

John Thornton, CEO of Astrobotic Technology, made the proposal at the Google Lunar XPRIZE Team Summit June 3-6, 2014 at the Academy of Sciences in Budapest, Hungary.

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Astrobotic to Launch Time Capsule to Moon

pocari_sweat_logoPITTSBURGH, Penn. (Astrobotic PR) — Astrobotic’s mission to Lacus Mortis is aiming for several firsts – first demonstration of autonomous precision landing within 100m, first flyover and circumnavigation of a lunar skylight, first winner of the Google Lunar XPRIZE, and now, delivery of the first marketing campaign to the Moon.  Astrobotic is taking Otsuka Pharmaceutical’s “Lunar Dream” time capsule as a payload on its inaugural mission. The Japanese beverage maker plans to send their powdered sports drink, Pocari Sweat, along with the dreams and wishes of children from around the globe, to the surface of the Moon.

The “Lunar Dream” time capsule is a titanium Pocari Sweat can constructed by Singapore-based Astroscale, a start-up with a mission to remove space debris.  The can will contain 120 titanium plates laser-engraved with handwritten dreams submitted by children from Asia and elsewhere. The can will also contain a powder that, when combined with water, becomes a serving of Pocari Sweat. This shipment will be the first commercial product delivered to another world for marketing purposes.

Otsuka “hopes the stunt will inspire young people to become astronauts, so they can travel the 380,000 kilometers to our closest celestial neighbor, crack open the can, and consume the powder inside.”  Children’s messages can be submitted through the Lunar Dream Website through May 2015.

Astrobotic will deposit the time capsule when it lands at Lacus Mortis (Latin for “Lake of Death”), a plain of basaltic lava flows in the northeast part of the Moon that contains a lunar pit that is a suspected skylight.

Astrobotic to Develop Autonomous Landing Capability for Sample Return

Astrobotic lander (Credit: Mark Maxwell)
Astrobotic lander (Credit: Mark Maxwell)

Astrobotic Technology will develop the capability to perform autonomous, controlled landings on the Moon, Mars, and asteroids under the terms of a new Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Pittsburgh, PA (Astrobotic PR) — Future NASA and commercial missions will increasingly target destinations with challenging topography and limited communication, such as unmapped asteroids, surface rendezvous sites for sample return, and terrain features like polar peaks, crater rims, and skylights on Mars and the Moon. “These are worthy but unexplored destinations,” said William “Red” Whittaker, Astrobotic’s Chairman. “Smaller, less expensive robotic landers will precede human missions to such destinations, but they are less tolerant – even a small hazard such as a rock or slope could be fatal for a small lander. This class of missions demands precise autonomous hazard detection and landing.”

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NASA Selects Astrobotic for SBIR Phase I Award

A mission concept to enter and explore a skylight on the Moon using Tyrobot. (Credit: Astrobotic Technology)
A mission concept to enter and explore a skylight on the Moon using Tyrobot. (Credit: Astrobotic Technology)

NASA has selected Astrobotic Technology for a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract to develop an auto-landing system for sample return missions.

“The proposed research innovates safe, precise navigation for autolanding for sample return missions to a distant asteroid, planet, or moon,” the proposal summary reads. “The technology suite developed will be packaged as a commercial product.

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CSF Congratulates Lunar CATALYST Partners

moon_rise_half
Washington, D.C. (CSF PR) — The Commercial Spaceflight Federation praises NASA for its announcement of three winners of their new innovative Lunar Cargo Transportation and Landing by Soft Touchdown (CATALYST) partnership program. Two awards were given to CSF Executive Member Companies Masten Space Systems and Moon Express, with the third going to Astrobotic Technology.

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Astrobotic, NASA Partner to Develop Commercial Lunar Landing Capability

Griffin Lander. (Credit: Astrobotic Technology)
Griffin Lander. (Credit: Astrobotic Technology)

Pittsburgh, PA (Astrobotic PR) — Astrobotic Technology has announced a new partnership with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for development of robotic lunar landing capability.

Astrobotic has been selected as a partner under NASA’s new Lunar Cargo Transportation and Landing by Soft Touchdown (Lunar CATALYST) initiative. NASA’s call for proposals sought partners in the development of reliable and cost-effective commercial robotic lunar lander capabilities that will enable the delivery of payloads to the surface of the moon. Commercial lunar transportation capabilities could support science and exploration objectives, such as sample returns, geophysical network deployment, resource prospecting, and technology demonstrations.

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NASA to Partner With Astrobotic, Masten & Moon Express on Lunar Program

The moon rising over Half Moon Bay, California on Halloween 2009. (Credit: Douglas Messier)
The moon rising over Half Moon Bay, California on Halloween 2009. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA announced Wednesday the selection of three U.S. companies to negotiate no-funds exchanged partnership agreements with the agency to advance lander capabilities that will enable delivery of payloads to the surface of the moon, as well as new science and exploration missions of interest to NASA and scientific and academic communities.

The selected companies are:

  • Astrobotic Technology, Inc., Pittsburgh
  • Masten Space Systems, Inc., Mojave, Calif.
  • Moon Express, Inc., Moffett Field, Calif.

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Astrobotic Successfully Tests Lunar Landing System

PITTSBURGH, PA, March 31, 2014 (Astrobotic PR):  Astrobotic Technology announced today that its autonomous landing technology, the Astrobotic Autolanding System (AAS), performed successfully throughout an open-loop flight campaign on the Masten Aerospace Xombie, a vertical-takeoff vertical-landing suborbital rocket. Testing was conducted at the Mojave Air and Space Port in Mojave, CA in February 2014. The test was made possible through funding by the NASA Flight Opportunities Program, which is managed by NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center.

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Astrobotic Selected for NASA SBIR Phase II Award

Resource Prospector Mission field test in Hawaii. (Credit: NASA)
Resource Prospector Mission field test in Hawaii. (Credit: NASA)

NASA has selected Astrobotic Technology of Pittsburgh for a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II award to facilitate the better planning and execution of resource extraction missions on the moon, Mars and other worlds.

“The proposed work develops a computer-aided mission planning tool that balances the competing demands of efficient routes, scientific information gain, and rover constraints (e.g., kinematics, communication, power, thermal, and terrainability) to generate and analyze optimized routes between sequences of locations,” according to the project’s technical abstract.

The company says that the planning tool would be directly applicable to the planned Lunar Resource Prospector Mission, which is a joint NASA-CSA effort to extra volatiles on the moon. The mission is targeted for launch later in this decade.

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Masten Accomplishes Successful Free Flight in Mojave

A Xombie technology demonstrator from Masten Space Systems, Mojave, Calif., ascends from its pad at Mojave Air and Space Port on a test for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The vehicle is a vertical-takeoff, vertical-landing experimental rocket. It is being used in collaboration with NASA Dryden Flight Research Center to evaluate performance of JPL's Fuel Optimal Large Divert Guidance (G-FOLD), a new algorithm for planetary pinpoint landing of spacecraft. Image (Credit: NASA/Masten)
A Xombie technology demonstrator from Masten Space Systems, Mojave, Calif., ascends from its pad at Mojave Air and Space Port on a test for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The vehicle is a vertical-takeoff, vertical-landing experimental rocket. It is being used in collaboration with NASA Dryden Flight Research Center to evaluate performance of JPL’s Fuel Optimal Large Divert Guidance (G-FOLD), a new algorithm for planetary pinpoint landing of spacecraft. Image (Credit: NASA/Masten)

Greetings from the Antelope Valley Board of Trade’s Business Outlook Conference!

During lunch, Mojave Air and Space Port Stu Witt announced that Masten Space Systems successfully flew a vehicle this morning. He said the vehicle went to an altitude of 300 meters, translated over and touched down safely on another landing pad.

Witt did not say which vehicle it was, but I’m guessing it was a Xombie. Masten has been working this week with Astrobotic Technology to for test the company’s landing sensor package and software system for its Griffin lander, which it plans to send to the moon in October 2015.

Astrobotic is a competitor in the Google Lunar X Prize, which has prizes for the first private company to land a rover on the moon.

Astrobotic to Deliver Lunar Dream Time Capsule to the Moon

astrobotic-prototype3-side-sm
Pittsburgh, 17th February 2014 (Astrobotic PR) – Singapore-based ASTROSCALE PTE. LTD. has contracted with Astrobotic Technology to send the Lunar Dream time capsule on its October 2015 lunar mission. The time capsule contains the popular Japanese sports drink, Pocari Sweat, which is sold across Asia and in much of the Middle East. The first commercial beverage to be delivered to the Moon’s surface, the Lunar Dream time capsule will be placed on the lunar surface by Astrobotic’s Griffin lander after it touches down in the Lacus Mortis region of the Moon.

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Astrobotic Begins Testing on Masten Vehicle in Mojave

A Xombie technology demonstrator from Masten Space Systems, Mojave, Calif., ascends from its pad at Mojave Air and Space Port on a test for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The vehicle is a vertical-takeoff, vertical-landing experimental rocket. It is being used in collaboration with NASA Dryden Flight Research Center to evaluate performance of JPL's Fuel Optimal Large Divert Guidance (G-FOLD), a new algorithm for planetary pinpoint landing of spacecraft. Image (Credit: NASA/Masten)
A Xombie technology demonstrator from Masten Space Systems, Mojave, Calif., ascends from its pad at Mojave Air and Space Port on a test for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The vehicle is a vertical-takeoff, vertical-landing experimental rocket. It is being used in collaboration with NASA Dryden Flight Research Center to evaluate performance of JPL’s Fuel Optimal Large Divert Guidance (G-FOLD), a new algorithm for planetary pinpoint landing of spacecraft. Image (Credit: NASA/Masten)

MOJAVE, Calif. (Astrobotic PR) — When Astrobotic’s Griffin lander descends to the lunar surface, it will precisely target a small landing ellipse (a small area where it might land) and autonomously maneuver to avoid hazards such as rocks bigger than 25cm and slopes greater than 15°. In last month’s blog post, we introduced the landing sensor package and the concept of map registration – a technique that matches (“registers”) a location in an in-flight image to the same location on a map.

This week, an Astrobotic team led by Kevin Peterson is headed out to Masten Space Systems, located at the Mojave Air and Space Port in Mojave, CA, to fly the landing sensor package and software system on the Masten Xombie suborbital rocket.

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Astrobotic Initiates Testing For Planetary Cave Exploration

A mission concept to enter and explore a skylight on the Moon using Tyrobot. (Credit: Astrobotic Technology)
A mission concept to enter and explore a skylight on the Moon using Tyrobot. (Credit: Astrobotic Technology)

Tech Updates
Via Astrobotic Technology
http://www.astrobotic.com/updates/technical/

Planetary caverns and tunnels can provide shelter from micrometeorites, radiation, and thermal extremes for human and robotic explorers. They may be the best hope for habitation on the Moon. They could be the best place on Mars to find life. They can provide a window into a planet’s past geology, climate, and even biology. Recently discovered skylights, formed by partial cave ceiling collapse, provide access to intriguing but unknown sub-surface voids. “Skylights are gateways to wonders of exploration, science and resources that await beneath planetary surfaces”, said Red Whittaker, Astrobotic CEO. “Robots are our access to those new worlds.”

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Astrobotic Lunar Rover Technology Selected for SBIR Phase I Award

Astrobotic's Polaris lunar rover. (Credit: Astrobotic Technology)
Astrobotic’s Polaris lunar rover. (Credit: Astrobotic Technology)

NASA has selected Astrobotic Technology for a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I award worth up to $125,000 for the development of technology that will allow lunar prospecting rovers to search for ice and other volatiles in the extreme conditions of polar craters.

“Current planetary rover planning technologies are not designed for these environments and have avoided them altogether, operating only in mid-latitudes,” according to a summary of the project, which focuses on allowing the rovers to operate with a degree of autonomy.

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