Monday, July 15, 2019

NASA ARTEMIS Program Picks Moon Delivery Teams

NASA recently announced that they have awarded $253.50 million to three companies that will develop robotic lunar landers as part of the ARTEMIS program. The program’s goal is to return astronauts to the moon by 2024 and to build a permanent lunar installation—a base on the moon. Once that has proven successful, astronauts will further explore the lunar south pole region and its ice deposits to find out if they are viable sources of air, water, and fuel. There are also plans to use the base as a launch center for manned missions to Mars in the future.

For decades, NASA has used private contractors and commercial partnerships, most notably with Elon Musk’s SpaceX, which delivered equipment to the International Space Station. NASA has been pleased with that success and sees it as a reason to expand those deals with the ARTEMIS program. Beginning in 2020, NASA will oversee three unmanned lunar landings that will deliver government and private sector payloads of technology and tools to build the lunar base. Construction will require specialized tools that will remain sharp and hard, because replacements won’t be easy to obtain. These tools may include drill bits tipped with cubic boron nitride, or c-BN, which is the hardest and most durable element on Earth—harder even than diamond. The payloads will also be dropped directly on the lunar surface, so the durability of the tools is of utmost importance.

Below are the three innovative corporations awarded contracts through the Commercial Lunar Payload Services program to put man on the moon once again.

Astrobotic Technology


Based in Pittsburgh, Astrobotic won $79.5 million to fly 14 payloads to Lacus Mortis, or the Lake of Death, on a lava plain on the moon’s near side. Astrobotic will use their Peregrine Lander on the missions.

Intuitive Machines

Headquartered in Houston, Intuitive Machines won $77 million to create a lander to touch down in Aceanus Procellarum, or the Ocean of Storms. Their development will be able to hitch a ride aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and carry a 220-pound payload.

Orbit Beyond


The smallest of the landers, Orbit Beyond’s Z-01 can deliver only 88 pounds of payload. Orbit Beyond will use their $97 million reward to send equipment to Mare Imbrium, the Sea of Rains, aboard the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. They have until September 2020 to create a working machine in their Edison, New Jersey, facility