Astrobotic Submits Winning Bid for Bankrupt Masten Space Systems’ Assets

Masten’s XL-1 lunar lander will deliver science and technology payloads to the Moon’s South Pole in 2022. (Credits: Masten Space Systems)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

MOJAVE, Calif., September 6, 2022 — Astrobotic Technology of Pittsburgh submitted the winning bid of $4.5 million to acquire the assets of bankrupt Masten Space Systems, beating out two other bidders, according to court documents.

The $4.5 million payment will be provided in cash “plus a waiver of Astrobotic’s unsecured claim against the Debtor’s estate, plus the payment of all costs relating to any contracts Astrobotic may take by assignment,” according to the transcript of a hearing held on Tuesday in Delaware Bankruptcy Court.

Masten filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy for protection from its creditors in July. The filing occurred after the company laid off some of its employees and furloughed almost all of its remaining ones.

Intuitive Machines bid $2.725 million for Masten’s assets. Impulse Space bid $750,000 for certain testing equipment. Representatives of the two companies declined to raise their bids during the hearing, leaving Astrobotic as the winner. the transcript said. A hearing will be held on Thursday, Sept. 8, to approve Astrobotic’s acquisition of the assets.

Astrobotic had previously reached an agreement with Masten to acquire the assets for $4.5 million under what is known as a stalking horse bid. The amount became the minimum or floor for the auction of Masten’s assets.

Astrobotic also provided to Masten with a $1.4 million debtor in possession (DIP) loan to allow the company to function as it works through bankruptcy. Sources say Masten has brought back a number of workers who were furloughed in July.

Astrobotic acquired a $14 million credit toward a launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 as part of its winning bid. The credit represents the amount Masten paid to Elon Musk’s company to launch a spacecraft that would have delivered the MoonRanger rover and a suite of scientific instruments to the lunar surface for NASA. SpaceX canceled the launch in June because Masten had not paid the company an additional $4.6 million as required under the contract.

NASA awarded Masten a contract worth $75.9 million contract for the mission under its Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program in April 2020. CLPS pays companies to deliver payloads to the moon.

NASA’s funding didn’t cover the entire cost of the mission. Masten was unsuccessful in raising additional funding to cover the gap, leading to the declaration of bankruptcy. Three companies also declined to buy Masten earlier this year, in large part due to liabilities related to the moon mission.

Masten Mission 1 would have been the first space mission for the company, which has built a series of low-altitude vertical launch/vertical landing vehicles that it has flown at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California.

NASA has awarded Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic two separate CLPS contracts to deliver a rover and scientific instruments to the lunar surface on a pair of missions. It is unclear whether Astrobotic will undertake Masten Mission 1.