NASA Deepens International Space Cooperation

Jim Bridenstine (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

BREMEN, Germany (NASA PR) — NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine took advantage of the global presence at the 2018 International Astronautical Congress to sign three new agreements, underpinning the agency’s continued commitment to international cooperation. The agreements, with Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Japan, covered lunar exploration, X-ray astronomy and human space flight.

NASA and the Israel Space Agency (ISA) agreed to cooperatively utilize the Israeli nonprofit SpaceIL’s commercial lunar mission, expected to land on the Moon in 2019. NASA will contribute a laser retroreflector array to aid with ground tracking and Deep Space Network support to aid in mission communication. ISA and SpaceIL will share data with NASA from the SpaceIL lunar magnetometer installed aboard the spacecraft. The instrument, which was developed in collaboration with the Weizmann Institute of Science, will measure the magnetic field on and above the landing site.

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NASA, Israel Space Agency Sign Agreement for Commercial Lunar Cooperation

Lunar lander (Credit: SpaceIL)

BREMEN, Germany (NASA PR) — NASA has signed an agreement with the Israel Space Agency (ISA) to cooperatively utilize the Israeli nonprofit SpaceIL’s commercial lunar mission, expected to land on the Moon in 2019.

NASA will contribute a laser retroreflector array to aid with ground tracking and Deep Space Network support to aid in mission communication. ISA and SpaceIL will share data with NASA from the SpaceIL lunar magnetometer installed aboard the spacecraft.

The instrument, which was developed in collaboration with the Weizmann Institute of Science, will measure the magnetic field on and above the landing site. The data will be made publicly available through NASA’s Planetary Data System.  In addition, NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter will attempt to take scientific measurements of the SpaceIL lander as it lands on the Moon.

The agreement was signed by NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and Avi Blasberger, Director of the Israel Space Agency. Dr. Ido Anteby, CEO of SpaceIL, was also present.

“I’m thrilled to extend progress in commercial cooperation we’ve made in low-Earth orbit to the lunar environment with this new agreement with the Israel Space Agency and SpaceIL,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “Innovative partnerships like this are going to be essential as we go forward to the Moon and create new opportunities there.”

SpaceIL competed in the Google Lunar X Prize, and continues to work toward landing the first Israeli spacecraft on the Moon. Together, NASA and SpaceIL will collaborate on analyzing the scientific data returned from the mission.

The agreement exemplifies the innovative approach that NASA and its international partners are taking to team up with commercial partners to advance important science and exploration objectives on and around the Moon.

For more information about NASA and agency programs, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov

The GLXP is Dead! Long Live the GLXP!

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

This past week, the XPrize acknowledged the obvious:  after 10 years and multiple deadline extensions, none of the five remaining teams was going to claim the Google Lunar X Prize by landing a privately-built vehicle on the moon that would travel 500 meters across the surface while sending back high-definition video.

The first team to accomplish that goal would have claimed $20 million; the second, $5 million. But, unlike the moon race of the 1960’s, Google’s much hyped moon shot ended not with the deafening roar of a launch but the deadening silence of a dream deferred.

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Is the Google Lunar X Prize Kaput?

Lunar rover (Credit: TeamIndus)

It appears highly likely that the decade-old Google Lunar X Prize will end on March 31 without a winner following reports out of India that Team Indus has pulled out of the race. The Ken reports that

The launch contract that TeamIndus signed with Antrix Corporation—the commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro)—in December 2016, in pursuit of its $30-million Google Lunar XPRIZE goal, has been cancelled. Multiple sources within Isro confirmed the news….

Conservatively speaking, the price tag for the PSLV chartered launch alone is said to be upwards of $20 million; the cost of building and testing the moon rover is several million more. It’s learnt TeamIndus couldn’t pony up funds to pay Antrix beyond the initial signing amount. “Isro has cancelled the contract for a lack of compliances and payment issues,” says a person who is close to these developments. He says, “Rahul [Narayan, co-founder TeamIndus] has spoken to all on the floor recently and informed all of Isro’s decision of pulling out of the mission”. TeamIndus did not respond to questions sent by email. Without denying the news, a spokesperson for the company said, “As a company, we’d not comment on this”.

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Time Running Out to Win Google Lunar X Prize

Lunar rover (Credit: TeamIndus)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The clock is ticking for the remaining teams in the $30 million Google Lunar X Prize competition.

Barring another extension, they have until March 31 to land a vehicle on moon and travel 500 meters across it to claim the $20 million first prize or $5 million second prize. It’s not clear whether any of them will make the deadline.

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Code Red! SpaceIL Needs $20 Million Stat to Save Satellite Program

Lunar spacecraft (Credit: SpaceIL)

TEL AVIV (SpaceIL PR) — The construction of the first Israeli spacecraft is at a critical turning point. Only two weeks before its completion, $20 million are needed by the end of the year to prevent the project’s termination. This would result in the cancellation of the launch planned for 2018 and end all the non-profit’s educational activities, a moment before the spacecraft is launched.

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Google Lunar X Prize Extends Deadline Again

LOS ANGELES, August 16, 2017 (XPRIZE PR) – Today, XPRIZE and Google announce that $4.75M in additional Milestone Prize money will be available to Google Lunar XPRIZE finalist teams for achieving technological milestones along the way to the Moon.

Additionally, XPRIZE established a mission completion deadline of March 31, 2018, regardless of the initiation date, in order for teams to win the Grand or Second-Place Prizes.

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Report: Google Lunar XPrize Field Narrows

SpaceIL lander (Credit: SpaceIL)

It looks as if Team SpaceIL is out of the $30 million Google Lunar XPrize.

Quartz reports the Israeli team will not be able to launch its lander/rover to the moon aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 booster until some time next year — too late to meet the end-of-2017 deadline required to win the prize.

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Google Lunar X Prize Down to Five Teams

GOES-16 captured this view of the moon as it looked above the surface of the Earth on January 15. Like earlier GOES satellites, GOES-16 will use the moon for calibration. (Credits: NOAA/NASA)
GOES-16 captured this view of the moon as it looked above the surface of the Earth on January 15. Like earlier GOES satellites, GOES-16 will use the moon for calibration. (Credits: NOAA/ NASA)

After 10 years, the Google Lunar X Prize is down to five finalists. The survivors include:

  • Hakuto (Japan)
  • Moon Express (USA)
  • SpaceIL (Israel)
  • Synergy Moon (International)
  • Team Indus (India)

The teams have until the end of this year to launch a vehicle to the moon. The vehicle must travel 500 meters across the lunar surface and return high-definition video.

There is a $20 million prize for the first team to accomplish this goal. The second prize is worth $5 million.

The Year Ahead in Space

Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)
Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)

It’s going to be busy year in space in 2017. Here’s a look at what we can expect over the next 12 months.

A New Direction for NASA?

NASA’s focus under the Obama Administration has been to try to commercialize Earth orbit while creating a foundation that would allow the space agency to send astronauts to Mars in the 2030’s.

Whether Mars will remain a priority under the incoming Trump Administration remains to be seen. There is a possibility Trump will refocus the space agency on lunar missions instead.

Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), who is currently viewed as a leading candidate for NASA administrator, has written two blog posts focused on the importance of exploring the moon and developing its resources. Of course, whether Bridenstine will get NASA’s top job is unclear at this time.

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Astrobotic Pulls Out of Google Lunar X Prize

Peregrine lunar lander (Credit: Astrobotic)
Peregrine lunar lander (Credit: Astrobotic)

Astrobotic has pulled out of the Google Lunar X Prize, according to an update on the Space Angels Network website.

As a former XPRIZE contender, Astrobotic was the only team to win all three of the competition’s Milestone Prizes, which brought the company $1.75 million in prize money. Astrobotic is now poised for further success: Their Peregrine Lander will carry customer payloads to the Moon’s surface in 2019, including the rovers of three other GLXP competitors. These initial customers, who have had an opportunity to evaluate all potential service providers, have said that Astrobotic is “years ahead of the competition.”
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GLXP Update: TeamIndus Announces Launch Contract

Lunar rover (Credit: TeamIndus)
Lunar rover (Credit: TeamIndus)

TeamIndus, the only Indian team in the Google Lunar X Prize (GLXP), has announced a contract with the ISRO space agency to fly its lunar rover aboard a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) next year.

The team is hoping to win the $20 million first prize for the first privately-built rover on the moon. The vehicle will need to travel 500 meters across the surface and beam back high-definition video to Earth. The competition also has a $5 million second prize.

TeamIndus officials said the ISRO contract has been verified by the X Prize Foundation, which runs the competition. Four other teams have announced launch contracts: Moon Express, PTScientists, SpaceIL and Synergy Moon. The foundation has verified the contracts for all of these teams except for PTScientists, which announced its agreement earlier this week.

The foundation set a deadline for the end of this year for competition’s 16 teams to have their launch contracts verified. Any teams without launch agreements will be dropped from competition.

TeamIndus said it needs to raise $65 million to pay for the launch and the mission. It is in negotiations with other teams without rides to the moon to carry their rovers to the surface.

The team’s chances of winning GLXP money will depend upon the competition extending its deadline for winning the prize beyond Dec. 31, 2017. The launch is not scheduled until Dec. 28. The spacecraft will then take 21 days to spiral out to the moon and land there.

The other issue is that launch schedules are notoriously unreliable. ISRO is no exception. It’s a pretty big bet to except the agency to launch on time. The schedule also gives TeamIndus no room for delays on hardware that isn’t even built and tested yet.

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New Poll: Will Anyone Win the Google Lunar X Prize?

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)

The latest deadline to end all deadlines for winning the $30 million Google Lunar X Prize is Dec. 31, 2017. Barring a further extension of a drop dead date that has already been extended five years from 2012, the 16 remaining teams have just under 17 months to land a vehicle on the moon and have it travel 500 meters across the surface.

Can any of them do it in time?

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GLXP Update: SpaceIL Tests Lunar Lander Engine

SpaceIL engine test. (Credit: SpaceIL)
SpaceIL engine test. (Credit: SpaceIL)

TEL AVIV (SpaceIL PR) — SpaceIL recently tested the spacecraft’s main engine in a facility in England.

The purpose of the experiment was to test engine performance under conditions, which are similar to the expected conditions during the Moon landing. The test examined the engine’s reactions to different operating modes.

The test was a success after the engine showed durability to the requirements during various shutdown cycles, without overheating of the inside parts.

Since the maximum temperature the engine reached in the experiment has not exceeded the allowed range, it is expected to perform well in moment of truth. The positive results of the test increase the chances to successful landing on the Moon.

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