PITTSBURGH, PA - February 6, 2011 - Astrobotic Technology Inc. today announced it has signed a contract with SpaceX to launch Astrobotic's robotic payload to the Moon on a Falcon 9. The expedition will search for water and deliver payloads, with the robot narrating its adventure while sending 3D video. The mission could launch as soon as December 2013.
The Falcon 9 upper stage will sling Astrobotic on a four-day cruise to the Moon. Astrobotic will then orbit the moon to align for landing. The spacecraft will land softly, precisely and safely using technologies pioneered by Carnegie Mellon University for guiding autonomous cars. The rover will explore for three months, operate continuously during the lunar days, and hibernate through the lunar nights. The lander will sustain payload operations with generous power and communications.
"The mission is the first of a serial campaign," said Dr. William "Red" Whittaker, chairman of Astrobotic Technology and founder of the university's Field Robotics Center. "Astrobotic's missions will pursue new resources, deliver rich experiences, serve new customers and open new markets. Spurred further by incentives, contracts, and the Google Lunar X-Prize, this is a perfect storm for new exploration."
"The moon has economic and scientific treasures that went undiscovered during the Apollo era, and our robot explorers will spearhead this new lunar frontier," said David Gump, president of Astrobotic Technology. "The initial mission will bank up to $24 million in Google's Lunar X-Prize, Florida's $2 million launch bonus, and NASA's $10 million landing contract while delivering 240 pounds of payload for space agencies and corporate marketers."
In addition to Carnegie Mellon, where several prototypes have been built and tested, the mission is supported by industrial partners such as International Rectifier Corporation and corporate sponsors such as Caterpillar Inc. and ANSYS Inc.
About Astrobotic Technology
AstroboticTM expeditions deliver payloads, scientific instruments and engineering experiments to the moon for space agencies, academic researchers and the media/marketing industries. NASA awarded the company a $10 million contract in 2010 for access to the expedition's engineering data on lunar landing technologies. The company also has a NASA assignment to design a lunar mining robot to recover the frozen volatiles at the poles, which can be transformed into propellant to refuel spacecraft for their return to Earth. Other expeditions will explore "skylight" holes and lunar caves as havens from temperature extremes, radiation exposure and micrometeorite bombardment. Astrobotic also plans a robot to circle the moon, outrunning lunar sundown and avoiding the immobilizing cold of the two-week night. More information is available at www.astrobotic.net.
SpaceX is developing a family of launch vehicles and spacecraft that is increasing the reliability and performance of space transportation, while ultimately reducing costs by a factor of ten. With the Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 rockets, SpaceX has a diverse manifest of launches to deliver commercial satellites to orbit. After the Space Shuttle retires, the Falcon 9 and SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft will start carrying cargo, including live plants and animals, to and from the International Space Station for NASA. Falcon 9 and Dragon were developed to one day carry astronauts.
Founded in 2002, SpaceX is a private company owned by management and employees, with minority investments from Founders Fund, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, and Valor Equity Partners. The company has over 1,200 employees in California, Texas and Florida. For more information, and to watch the video of the Falcon 9 and Dragon launches, visit the SpaceX website at SpaceX.com.