Lunar CATALYST

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Lunar Cargo Transportation and Landing by Soft Touchdown (Lunar CATALYST)
Logo of NASA's Luna CATALYST initiative
Mission statement "NASA's Lunar Cargo Transportation and Landing by Soft Touchdown (Lunar CATALYST) initiative is establishing multiple no-funds-exchanged Space Act Agreement (SAA) partnerships with U.S. private sector entities. The purpose of these SAAs is to encourage the development of robotic lunar landers that can be integrated with U.S. commercial launch capabilities to deliver payloads to the lunar surface."
Commercial? Yes
Type of project Initiative
Location USA
Owner NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Established July 2013 (2013-07)
Website www.nasa.gov/lunarcatalyst

The Lunar CATALYST (Lunar Cargo Transportation and Landing by Soft Touchdown) initiative is an attempt by NASA to encourage the development of robotic lunar landers that can be integrated with United States commercial launch capabilities to deliver payloads to the lunar surface.[1]

NASA aims to build on its partnerships with the U.S. commercial space industry that are developing new spacecraft and rockets capable of delivering cargo and soon, astronauts) to low Earth orbit. Recognizing United States industry's interest in reaching and exploring the Moon, the Agency has competitively selected three partners to spur commercial cargo transportation capabilities to the surface of the Moon.

The hope is commercial robotic lunar lander capabilities will address emerging demand by private customers who wish to conduct activities on the Moon and could also enable new science and exploration missions of interest to the larger scientific and academic communities.

Currently the Lunar CATALYST initiative has signed three no-funds-exchanged Space Act Agreement (SAA) partnerships with U.S. private sector entities.[1][2]

Initiative overview[edit]

Lunar CATALYST is operated under the Advanced Exploration Systems Division of NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate. The three companies Astrobotic Technology, Masten Space Systems and Moon Express are being offered SAA but will not receiving any funds.[1] They will negotiate with the space agency for a partnership to exchange technical expertise and help promote the private space sector.[3]

On November 1, 2016 NASA issued a Request for Information (RFI) about possible small lunar surface payloads that can be delivered to the Moon's surface in the 2017-2020 time-frame using U.S. commercial lunar cargo transportation service providers. Of particular interest were payloads that address NASA's strategic objectives including filling one or more of NASA's lunar exploration Strategic Knowledge Gaps (SKGs).[4]

On May 1, 2017 NASA issued an additional RFI to obtain more Information for Lunar landing services in the decade starting 2018. Responses to be within 30 days. NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) was considering using commercial launches able to fulfil its objectives by sending experiments, instruments, or other payloads to the lunar surface.[5] Detailed information was issued as a business opportunity.[6]

Companies[edit]

Astrobotic Technology[edit]

Astrobotic Technologies of Pittsburgh, Pa. is believed to have bid the 260 kg payload Griffin Lander. Astrobotics has signed a Space Act Agreement with NASA containing 20 Milestones supporting two demonstration missions, the second of which has enhanced navigation and hazard avoidance performance, ending in July 2017.[7] As of July 2015 Astrobotic has developed a preliminary version of its flight software for precision guidance. Testing in simulation validated the Griffin lander’s ability to autonomously guide itself to a precise touchdown near the Lacus Mortis pit.[8]As of November 2015 an end-to-end mission simulation has been completed. The CDR (Critical Design Review) is expected in June 2016.[9] In December 2016 Astrobotic slipped their estimated launch date to 2019 and separated from the Google Lunar X Prize.[10] In July 2017 Astrobotic announced that it would be sending a Peregrine Lunar Lander with 35 kg of customer payload to the Moon. The spacecraft will be launched on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) launch vehicle in 2019.[11]

Masten Space Systems[edit]

Masten Space Systems Inc. of Mojave, Calif. is believed to have bid both the XEUS lander and the smaller XL-1 lander. XEUS comes in two versions. The expendable version can land about 10 tonnes, where as the reusable version can land 5 tonne. As of May 2015 Masten has signed an unfunded Space Act Agreement with NASA containing 22 Milestones to demonstrate the hardware and software for a commercial lunar lander, ending in August 2017.[12] As of November 2015 the propulsion system PDR (Preliminary Design Review) completed.[9]

The XL-1 is being designed to soft land a payload of 100 kg (220 lb) on the lunar surface.[13]

Moon Express[edit]

Moon Express Inc., of Moffett Field, Calif. is believed to have bid the MX-1 lander family.[2] In early 2015 Moon Express test flew a tethered prototype lander at the Morpheus Lander test area at NASA's Kennedy Space Center as part of its entry in the Google XPRIZE. The operational spacecraft is designed to be launched as a secondary payload and to fly to the Moon from GEO.[14][15] As of 22 January 2015 Moon Express has signed a 5-year agreement with Space Florida to perform lunar lander development and flight test operations at Space Launch Complex 36 (SLC-36), Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Brevard County, Florida.[16]

As of 10 March 2015 Moon Express hopes to soft land on the Moon in 2016. The MX-1 will exit Low Earth Orbit using its hydrogen peroxide engine. Later missions plan to bring back to Earth minerals, Moon rocks and precious metals.[15] The unfunded Space Act Agreement (SAA) with NASA contains 16 milestones ending in March 2017.[17] As of November 2015 the lander's tether test has been completed.[9]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "NASA TechPort -- Lunar CATALYST Project". NASA TechPort. National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Retrieved 19 November 2015. 
  2. ^ a b "About Lunar CATALYST". NASA.GOV. NASA. Retrieved October 31, 2015. 
  3. ^ David Szondy (May 1, 2014). "NASA announces partners for lunar lander program". GIZMAD.COM. Gizmag Pty Ltd (Gizmag). Retrieved May 4, 2014. 
  4. ^ https://www.fbo.gov/index?s=opportunity&mode=form&id=cbcd56e6afbd7dfad1ef9cd0fb52b6f7&tab=core&tabmode=list&= NASA (November 1, 2016). "Small Lunar Surface Payload Request for Information (RFI)". FedBizOpps.gov. Retrieved November 1, 2016. 
  5. ^ Tricia Talbert. "NASA Seeks Additional Information for Lunar Missions". NASA. Retrieved May 2, 2017. 
  6. ^ "Lunar Surface Cargo Transportation Services Request for Information (RFI)". Federal Business Opportunities (FBO) website. NASA. Retrieved May 2, 2017. 
  7. ^ Astrobotic Technology Inc, NASA. "Space Act Agreement between Astrobotic Technologies and NASA for Lunar CATALYST" (PDF). www.nasa.gov. Retrieved May 24, 2015. 
  8. ^ Doug Messier (July 8, 2015). "Astrobotic, NASA Team to Develop Flight Software for Griffin Lander". Parabolic Arc. Retrieved July 8, 2015. 
  9. ^ a b c Jason Crusan. "HEOMD's Advanced Exploration Systems - Status Update" (PDF). www.nasa.gov. NASA. pp. 14, 26. Retrieved November 15, 2015. 
  10. ^ John Thornton. "Graduating from the Google Lunar X Prize". Space News Mag. Retrieved December 20, 2016. 
  11. ^ "Astrobotic and United Launch Alliance Announce Mission to the Moon". Astrobotic.com. Retrieved July 26, 2017. 
  12. ^ Masten Space Systems, NASA. "Space Act Agreement between NASA and Masten Space Systems for Lunar CATALYST" (PDF). www.nasa.gov. Retrieved May 24, 2015. 
  13. ^ "Masten’s Green Bipropellant: MXP-351". www.masten.aero. Retrieved March 23, 2017. 
  14. ^ James Dean (November 3, 2014). "Start-up at KSC eyes Google Lunar XPRIZE". Florida Today. Retrieved November 3, 2014. 
  15. ^ a b Susan Caminiti (March 10, 2015). "Billionaire teams up with NASA to mine the moon". Yahoo Finance. Yahoo. CNBC.com. Retrieved March 11, 2015. 
  16. ^ "Cape Canaveral SLC-36 Is Central to Moon Express' Commercial Efforts to Reach the Moon". spaceref.biz. January 22, 2015. Retrieved January 22, 2015. 
  17. ^ Moon Express Inc, NASA. "Space Act Agreement between Moon Express Inc and NASA for Lunar CATALYST" (PDF). www.nasa.gov. Retrieved May 24, 2015. 

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