NASA taps Draper for first US landing on the far side of the Moon – Spaceflight Now

An example of Draper’s Series-2 lunar lander, which will deliver science and technology payloads to the Moon for NASA in 2025. credit: Draper

NASA has awarded Draper a $73 million contract to deliver science instruments to the far side of the Moon on a commercial robotic lander in 2025, the eighth award through the agency’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services program. Officials from the companies that flew the first two CLPS missions, Astrobotic and Intuitive Machine, said recently that their commercial landers are due for launch by the end of this year or early next year.

The CLPS program aims to promote the development of commercial capabilities for landing on the Moon, delivering science instruments and cargo in support of NASA’s Artemis program. The first seven CLPS mission work orders awarded by NASA are for landings near the Moon, or near the Moon’s South Pole, where the agency plans to send astronauts on human landing missions.

Draper is one of 14 companies that are eligible to receive individual mission contracts, or work orders, through NASA’s CLPS program. The task order awarded on July 21 was the first time Draper received since NASA selected the first batch of CLPS contractors in 2018 to complete it for the Moon mission.

Draper’s contract with NASA, which is valued at $73 million, covers the entire mission to the far side of the Moon. As the main contractor, Draper is responsible for developing the lander system and procuring a launcher to send spacecraft from Earth to the Moon.

The Draper-managed SERIES-2 lander will attempt to land in the Schrödinger Basin, a 200-mile-wide (320-kilometer) impact crater on the far side of the Moon near the South Pole. China’s Chang’e 4 mission, a robotic lander and rover that landed on the lunar surface in January 2019, is the only soft landing ever made on the back of the moon.

“This lunar surface distribution over a geographic region on the Moon that is not visible from Earth will allow science to be conducted at a location of interest, but far from the first Artemis human landing mission,” said Joel Kearns, deputy associate administrator for exploration. Told. NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “Understanding geophysical activity on the far side of the Moon will give us a deeper understanding of our solar system and provide information to help us prepare for the Artemis astronaut mission to the lunar surface.”

The Schrödinger Basin is a large lunar impact crater on the far side of the Moon, close to the Moon’s south pole. credit: NASA Scientific Visualization Studio

Draper is partnering with a company named iSpace to design the Series-2 lander. Headquartered in Japan, iSpace has a US-based division to build the SERIES-2 lander, which will be approximately 11.5 charges (3.5 m) long and approximately 14 feet (4.2 m) wide, including its landing legs.

Systema Technologies, a division of Karman Space & Defense, will lead the construction, assembly, integration and testing of the lander. And scientists from the General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems mission will integrate the payload. Draper, who developed the guidance computer for NASA’s Apollo lunar program, said in a statement that it will provide descent guidance, navigation and control systems for the Series-2 lander, as well as overall program management, systems engineering, integration and test services, and missions. will provide. and quality assurance.

“Draper and his colleagues are honored by NASA to be selected by NASA to deliver these critical payloads to the lunar surface, paving the way for human and robotic exploration missions to follow. In keeping with our legacy in space exploration, Starting with the Apollo program, and with our deep roots and broad technology presence in the space sector, Draper is poised to ensure American prominence in the commercialization of cislunar space,” said Pete Paisley, Draper’s principal director of civil and commercial space systems. .

Responding to a question from Spaceflight Now, Paisley said that Draper has decided on a launch provider for the CLPS mission, but needs to finish the paperwork on the deal before it can be announced publicly.

The Schrödinger Basin is one of the youngest impact basins on the lunar surface with evidence of volcanic activity in the recent geological past. According to NASA, the crater-forming impact lifted material from the Moon’s deep crust and upper mantle, and the location was the site of a large volcanic eruption.

Draper’s lander will carry three NASA-funded science instruments with a combined mass of about 209 pounds (65 kilograms) to the Moon. The payload will collect NASA’s first seismic data from the far side of the Moon, drill into the lunar crust to measure subsurface heat, measure the electrical conductivity of the Moon’s interior, collect information on the magnetic field at the landing site, and measure the surface area. Will study weathering. ,

Since the far side of the Moon is hidden by Earth-based antennas, Draper’s industry team will send two data relay satellites built by Blue Canyon Technologies into an orbit near the Moon to help ground controllers and scientists from landers on the lunar surface. can be added.

Astrobotic’s Peregrine lander is undergoing integration in Pittsburgh earlier this year. credit: Astrobotic

Industry officials said NASA’s first two CLPS missions are due to launch later this year or early next year.

The astrobotic and intuitive machine won the first batch of CLPS task orders in May 2019, when the companies said they planned to land on the Moon in 2021. Astrobotic’s Peregrine lander is now scheduled to launch “at the end of the year,” said Dan Hendrickson, Astrobotic’s vice president of business development, in a July 20 panel discussion at the NASA Exploration Science Forum.

The company’s first mission, the Nova-C lander, is expected to be delayed from late this year to January, said Timothy Crane, chief technology officer at Intuitive Machines. Astrobotic’s lander will launch on the inaugural flight of United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan Centaur rocket, while the Intuitive Machine will launch its mission on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

NASA has issued a work order to three CLPS missions to Intuitive Machine, two to Astrobotic, one to Masten Space Systems, one to Firefly Aerospace, and now to Draper.

NASA and industry officials have emphasized the high-risk, high-reward nature of the CLPS program. Many companies in NASA’s CLPS contractor pool have little experience in developing or operating spacecraft, and NASA officials have said some landings may fail.

When asked about his concerns about the future of the CLPS program, Firefly vice president Shia Ferring identified NASA’s resilience to failures.

“If the first few missions have a problem within the first year will they keep up with it?” Ferring said. “It’s going to be easy three to five years from now, but it won’t be easy until we get to that point, and we need NASA to live with it and effectively be our anchor customer.” Is.”

“I think that’s the basic technology for landing a robotic lander on the surface of the Moon and surviving for 14 days on Earth,” Hendrickson said. “But the challenge is in making sure that we strengthen ourselves as a nation when we have a bad day.”

Hendrickson compared the CLPS program to NASA’s Commercial Cargo Program, which contracted with SpaceX and Northrop Grumman to deliver supplies to the International Space Station. Both companies suffered launch failures early in the program.

“There were some in a dramatic fashion in the Commercial Resupply Services program, and yet they stayed on course, and they kept pushing and flying, and now it happens regularly all the time,” Hendrickson said. “And I think the same will happen for the Moon. There may be some challenges along the way here, and we need to remain the source to make sure we’re still making progress.”

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