Masten Gets $4.5 Million Bid for Assets from Astrobotic Technology

A rendering of Astrobotic’s Peregrine lunar lander is shown, with NASA’s three water-detecting payloads (MSolo, NSS, and NIRVSS) highlighted in blue. (Credit: Astrobotic Technology)

Updated 8/12/2022 at 12:02 p.m. EDT with information about launch credit with SpaceX.

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

MOJAVE, Calif. — Astrobotic Technology has made an initial bid of $4.5 million to acquire the assets of Masten Space Systems, which sought protection from creditors last month by filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The bid will serve as a minimum during the subsequent auction of Masten’s assets.

Astrobotic has also agreed to provide Masten with a $1.4 million debtor in possession (DIP) loan to allow the company to function as it works through bankruptcy.

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New Bankruptcy Document Chronicles Masten Space Systems’ Failed Efforts to Sell Company, Inability to Raise Money

A spacecraft creates its own landing pad using the in-Flight Alumina Spray Technique system. (Credit: Masten Space Systems)

Updated on 8/12/2022 at 1:40 p.m. with information about Astrobotic Technology’s loan to Masten and initial bid for the bankrupt company’s assets.

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

MOJAVE, Calif. — A new court document reveals that an unidentified company nearly purchased now-bankrupt Masten Space Systems earlier this year, but it ultimately backed away due to financial concerns about Masten Mission 1 (MM1), the company’s program to deliver a small rover and a suite of instruments to the south pole of the moon under a NASA contract.

“On April 29, Company A informed Masten that it did not plan to proceed with a deal because of the substantial liabilities recognized to date and additional future projected losses associated with MM1,” an Aug. 10 filing in Delaware Bankruptcy Court said.

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ispace Lunar Lander Selected to Deliver NASA CLPS Payloads to the Far Side of the Moon

ispace U.S.’s SERIES-2 Lander Will Deploy Two Communications Relay Satellitesto Support Far Side Landing

TOKYO (space, inc. PR) — ispace, inc.(ispace) today announced that its subsidiary, ispace technologies U.S., inc. (ispace U.S.) joins a team, led by Draper, that has been awarded $73 million to deliver payloads including two communication relay satellites to lunar orbit as well as a suite of scientific experiments to the lunar surface.

Team Draper, which includes ispace U.S., as well as General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems, and Systima Technologies, a division of Karman Space & Defense, expects to launch and begin operations on the lunar surface in 2025 in fulfillment of the NASA Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) task order CP-12.

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NASA Awards Draper $73 Million to Deliver Suite of Payloads to the Moon in 2025

An illustration of Draper’s SERIES-2 lunar lander, which will deliver science and technology payloads to the Moon for NASA in 2025. (Image Credit: Draper)

CAMBRIDGE, MA (Draper PR) — Draper, a company with a heritage in space exploration from the earliest stages of Apollo to the most recent Artemis awards, announced that NASA has awarded Draper $73 million to deliver a suite of three NASA-sponsored science payloads to the Schrödinger basin on the lunar surface. Schrödinger basin is on the far side of the Moon—a first for NASA.

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NASA Delays VIPER Rover Launch to Moon, Gives Astrobotic More Money

NASA’s Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, or VIPER, is a mobile robot that will roam around the Moon’s south pole looking for water ice. The VIPER mission will give us surface-level detail of where the water is and how much is available for us to use. This will bring us a significant step closer towards NASA’s ultimate goal of a sustainable, long-term presence on the Moon – making it possible to eventually explore Mars and beyond. (Credit: NASA Ames/Daniel Rutter)

NASA Mission Update

NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative allows rapid acquisition of lunar delivery services from American companies for payloads that advance capabilities for science, exploration or commercial development of the Moon. Through CLPS, NASA contracted Astrobotic of Pittsburgh to deliver the agency’s Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) to the lunar surface in search of ice and other potential resources. The measurements returned by VIPER will provide insight into the origin and distribution of water on the Moon and help determine how the Moon’s resources could be harvested for future human space exploration. While VIPER was originally scheduled for lunar delivery by Astrobotic in November 2023, NASA has requested the Astrobotic and VIPER mission teams to adjust VIPER’s delivery to the Moon’s South Pole to November 2024.

NASA’s decision to pursue a 2024 delivery date results from the agency’s request to Astrobotic for additional ground testing of the company’s Griffin lunar lander, which will deliver VIPER to the lunar surface through CLPS. The additional tests aim to reduce the overall risk to VIPER’s delivery to the Moon. To complete the additional NASA-mandated tests of the Griffin lunar lander, an additional $67.8 million has been added to Astrobotic’s CLPS contract, which now totals $320.4 million. 

“Through CLPS, NASA has tasked U.S. companies to perform a very challenging technological feat – to successfully land and operate on the Moon,” said Joel Kearns, deputy associate administrator for exploration in NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “VIPER is NASA’s largest and most sophisticated science payload to be delivered to the Moon through CLPS, and we’ve implemented enhanced lander testing for this particular CLPS surface delivery.”

CLPS is a key part of NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration plans. The science and technology payloads sent to the Moon’s surface will help lay the foundation for human missions on and around the Moon. The agency has made seven task order awards to CLPS providers for lunar deliveries between in the early 2020s with more delivery awards expected through 2028.

For more information, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/clps

Cash-strapped Masten Space Furloughs Employees, Moon Landing Mission at Risk

Masten’s XL-1 lunar lander will deliver science and technology payloads to the Moon’s South Pole. (Credits: Masten Space Systems)

Updated on July 15 to clarify layoffs and furloughs.
Updated on July 15 with a statement from NASA.

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

MOJAVE, Calif. — Cash-strapped Masten Space Systems has furloughed all of its staff, putting at risk both the company and a $75.9 million NASA-funded mission to deliver the MoonRanger rover and eight scientific payloads to the lunar surface aboard Masten’s XL-1 lander late next year.

“XL-1 is basically dead. To my knowledge, everyone who was working exclusively on XL1 has been laid off,” a source familiar with the situation told Parabolic Arc in a written response to questions. The source requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about the matter.

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Tom Markusic Out as Firefly CEO 3 Months After AEI Takes Majority Stake in Rocket Company

Tom Markusic and Lauren Lyons in front of Firefly Alpha rocket on the pad at Vandenberg Space Force Base. (Credit: Firefly Aerospace)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Firefly Aerospace co-founder Tom Markusic is out as CEO, a move that comes three months after AE Industrial Partners (AEI) led a $75 million Series B funding round and completed its acquisition of a majority stake in the rocket company.

Firefly announced this week that Markusic transitioned to the role of full-time board member and chief technical advisor on Thursday, June 16. He remains “a significant minority investor” in the company, which is preparing for the second flight test of its Alpha small-satellite booster.

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NASA, ESA Finalize Agreements on Climate, Artemis Cooperation

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, right, and ESA (European Space Agency) Director General Josef Aschbacher pose for a photograph following the signing of two agreements at the ESA Council meeting in Noordwijk, Netherlands, June 15, 2022. The agreements aim to further advance the space agencies’ cooperation on Earth science and Artemis missions. (Credits: ESA/S.Corvaja)

NOORDWIJK, Netherlands (NASA PR) — NASA Administrator Bill Nelson and ESA (European Space Agency) Director General Josef Aschbacher signed two agreements Wednesday at the ESA Council meeting in Noordwijk, Netherlands, further advancing the space agencies’ cooperation on Earth science and Artemis missions.

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From the Earth to the Moon and on to Mars – ESA and NASA take decisions and plan for the future

Noordwijk, The Netherlands (ESA PR) — The next steps in exploring and using space for the benefit of European citizens were this week on the agenda at ESA’s Council meeting in ESA/ESTEC, the Netherlands on 14 and 15 June. The possibility of the first-ever European astronaut to set foot on the Moon, a telecommunication satellite for lunar exploration and a mission to return precious rock samples from Mars were all discussed.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson joined the meeting with ESA Member States in a decisive gesture to advocate for Europe’s strong role in multiple projects which reinforce the enduring partnership between the two leading space agencies.

“From understanding our changing planet to exploring Mars, I hugely value the cooperation we have with NASA” says ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher.  “By contributing key European hardware and services to exciting programmes such as Artemis and Mars Sample Return, we are building Europe’s autonomy while also being a reliable partner.”

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NASA Moon Mission Set to Break Record in Navigation Signal Test

Artistic rendering of LuGRE and the GNSS constellations. In reality, the Earth-based GNSS constellations take up less than 10 degrees in the sky, as seen from the Moon. (Credit: NASA/Dave Ryan)

By Danny Baird
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

GREENBELT, Md. — As the Artemis missions journey to the Moon and NASA plans for the long voyage to Mars, new navigation capabilities will be key to science, discovery, and human exploration.

Through NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative, Firefly Aerospace of Cedar Park, Texas, will deliver an experimental payload to the Moon’s Mare Crisium basin. NASA’s Lunar GNSS Receiver Experiment (LuGRE) payload will test a powerful new lunar navigation capability using Earth’s Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) signals at the Moon for the first time.  GNSS refers to satellite constellations commonly used for position, navigation, and timing services on Earth. GPS — the GNSS constellation operated by the U.S. Space Force — is the one many Americans are familiar with and use on a daily basis.

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ESA Ends Cooperation with Russia on 3 Lunar Missions, Deepens Cooperation with U.S. & Japan

PARIS (ESA PR) — Following the Russian aggression against Ukraine, ESA’s Director General has initiated a comprehensive review of all activities currently undertaken in cooperation with Russia and Ukraine. The objective is to determine the possible consequences of this new geopolitical context for ESA programmes and activities and to create a more resilient and robust space infrastructure for Europe.

The ESA Council on 13 April acknowledged the following findings and took the following decisions.

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NASA Offers Up to $200 Million to Help Push New Technologies to Market

OSAM-1 mission (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Companies with technologies that may advance exploration but need a little extra push to finalize development have two new opportunities to partner with NASA to make it over the finish line.

Through Tipping Point, NASA seeks to support space technologies that can foster the growth of commercial space capabilities and benefit future agency missions. NASA is also offering businesses a chance to work with agency experts or use facilities to complete their work through a separate Announcement of Collaboration Opportunity.

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MDA Awarded Another Contract to Provide Lunar Landing Sensors as Number of Planned Moon Missions Increases

BRAMPTON, Ont. (MDA PR) — MDA Ltd. (TSX:MDA), a leading provider of advanced technology and services to the rapidly-expanding global space industry, today announced a contract with an undisclosed US-based space company for a key landing sensor for a 2023 mission to the Moon. This award was made as part of the company’s project involving NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative.

“Momentum is building as governments and private sector organizations work hand in glove on a shared mission that will take us back towards the Moon and beyond,” said Mike Greenley, Chief Executive Officer of MDA. “MDA is proud to be part of that collaboration and we look forward to supporting the upcoming missions to the lunar surface where our robotics and sensor technologies will play an important enabling role.”

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2021 in Review: Highlights from NASA in Silicon Valley

Ingenuity Mars helicopter flies on the Red Planet. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS)

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (NASA PR) — Join us as we look back at the highlights of 2021 at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley.

1) NASA’s water-hunting Moon rover, the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, made great strides this year. The VIPER team successfully completed practice runs of the full-scale assembly of the Artemis program’s lunar rover in VIPER’s new clean room. Two rounds of egress testing let rover drivers practice exiting the lander and rolling onto the rocky surface of the Moon. NASA also announced the landing site selected for the robotic rover, which will be delivered to the Nobile region of the Moon’s South Pole in late 2023 as part of the Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative. NASA also chose eight new VIPER science team members and their proposals to expand and complement VIPER’s already existing science team and planned investigations. This year’s progress contributed to VIPER’s completion of its Critical Design Review, turning the mission’s focus toward construction of the rover beginning in late 2022.

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