Carnegie Mellon University spin-out Astrobotic Technology has received the first $500,000 task order from the $10 million contract that NASA awarded the company in October. The order will help the company design, build and test the primary structure for its lunar lander.
With the addition of engines, electronics and departure ramps, this lander will carry Astrobotic’s robotic rover to the Sea of Tranquility landing site of Apollo 11 in 2013.
The contract, awarded through NASA’s Innovative Lunar Demonstrations Data project, will pay for data gathered before and after the 2013 expedition. The delivery order to Astrobotic announced Dec. 20 is one of three orders NASA issued to contractors to help develop vehicle capabilities and demonstrate end-to-end robotic lunar landing missions.
“The amazingly short turnaround between proposal and award is a testament to NASA’s support for lunar commerce companies like ours,” said William “Red” Whittaker, chairman of Astrobotic and director of Carnegie Mellon’s Field Robotics Center.
The 2013 mission is part of Astrobotic’s efforts to establish the commercial exploration of the moon and to pursue up to $24 million under the Google Lunar X Prize competition.
Much of the technical work on the mission is being done at Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute. The mission also includes interdisciplinary arts projects created by students and faculty based in the STUDIO for Creative Inquiry in the College of Fine Arts. Allies in the mission include International Rectifier, Aerojet, Alcoa, ANSYS, Caterpillar, Harmonic Drive, Lockheed Martin, Scaled Composites, SpaceWorks Commercial and other companies.