Astrobotic, a lunar logistics service provider based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was selected by NASA to deliver the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) to the Moon’s South Pole in late 2023. The agency awarded Astrobotic a $199.5 million contract for end-to-end delivery of VIPER under the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program. Today, April 13, Astrobotic announced it selected SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket to launch the Griffin Lunar Lander carrying VIPER rover to the Moon. “Getting to the Moon isn’t just about building a spacecraft, but having a complete mission solution. SpaceX's Falcon Heavy completes our Griffin Mission 1 (GM1) solution by providing a proven launch vehicle to carry us on our trajectory to the Moon. SpaceX has the team, vehicle, and facilities to make this happen,” GM1 Director for Astrobotic Daniel Gillies said in a press release.
SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy is the world’s most powerful operational rocket, composed of three Falcon 9 nine-engine cores whose 27 Merlin engines generate over 5 million pounds upon liftoff. Falcon Heavy will launch from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, carrying Griffin and VIPER to the lunar surface. “Having previously sat on the other side of the table as a former SpaceX Mission Manager, I am fully aware of SpaceX’s capabilities and processes and am excited to be working with SpaceX on a mission once again. My first exposure to Falcon Heavy was as a SpaceX Mission Integrator on the STP-2 mission and I’m proud to be utilizing that same launch vehicle for Griffin,” Gillies stated.
Upon arrival, “Griffin will land on the surface and VIPER will disembark from Griffin’s ramps to survey the surface and subsurface for water ice. These surveys could be the first step toward utilizing resources in the space environment – rather than carting them all from Earth – to enable more affordable and sustainable space exploration,” Astrobotic said. VIPER will enable NASA researchers to learn more about the Moon to develop technology that could make use of resources found to create oxygen for astronauts and rocket propellant to build a sustainable lunar base. “Gaining a better learning of resources on the Moon is critical to advancing humanity’s reach beyond Earth, and we are honored to support this exciting mission and NASA’s CLPS program,” said SpaceX Senior Director of Commercial Sales Stephanie Bednarek.
We're going to the Moon again - this time with @SpaceX ! Falcon Heavy will carry our Griffin lunar lander to the Moon in late 2023 along with NASA’s water-hunting Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER). 🌙 pic.twitter.com/KWQlAKPj8R— Astrobotic (@astrobotic) April 13, 2021
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