Astrobotic Technology is an American privately held company that is developing space robotics technology for planetary missions. It was founded in 2008 by Carnegie Mellon professor Red Whittaker and his associates, with the goal of winning the Google Lunar X Prize.[1] The company is based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

As of August 2012, the company was partnered with Carnegie Mellon University, International Rectifier, Ansys, AGI, Alcoa, and Caterpillar.[2][dated info]


The team articulated an ambitious goal from the start in 2008: they hope to be the first to land their spacecraft "Red Rover" on the Moon, using the lander, named "Artemis Lander".[3] Since its formation, Astrobotic has maintained a spot in the top three rankings for Evadot's third-party Google Lunar X Prize Scorecard.[4] The company's first running prototype of Red Rover was completed the same year, and on July 28, 2008, NASA awarded Astrobotic funding for its "Regolith Moving Methods" proposal.[5]

In 2009, Astrobotic began to receive a series of Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) funding from NASA totaling over $795,000 to investigate prospecting for lunar resources.[6]

On October 15, 2010, NASA awarded a contract to Astrobotic for Innovative Lunar Demonstrations Data (ILDD) firm-fixed price indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contracts with a total value up to $30.1 million over a period of up to five years, and in December, NASA's $500,000 ILDD project for further Lunar Demonstrations Data was awarded to Astrobotic.[7]

As of February 2011, both the descent stage and the lunar rover are now unnamed. Originally named "Red Rover" and "Artemis Lander," respectively,[3] Astrobotic indicated in 2011 that they were reserving naming rights, as well as selection of the planned location for the lunar landing, for their payload customers. "We have to sell a lot of payload to make the economics work, ... the customers will decide where we go."[8] Later, the rover continued to be called "Red Rover" and the lander was now called "Griffin."

Astrobotic's "Technologies Enabling Exploration of Skylights, Lava Tubes and Caves," was a phase one selection for NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC).[9] In April 2011, Astrobotic received a $599,000 two-year contract to develop a scalable gravity offload device for testing rover mobility in simulated lunar gravity under NASA's Small Business Technology Transfer Program (STTR).[10]

In May 2012, David Gump left the position of President of Astrobotic and John Thornton took the reins.[11]

On April 30, 2014 NASA announced that Astrobotic Technologies was one of the three companies selected for the Lunar CATALYST initiative.[12] NASA is negotiating a 3-year no-funds-exchanged Space Act Agreement (SAA). The Griffin Lander may be involved.[13]
Commercial payload pricing

As of November 2010, the company had priced payload carried to the lunar surface at $700,000 per pound ($1,500,000/kg) with an additional per-payload fee of US$250,000 "to cover the cost of integration and to provide communications, power, thermal control and pointing services."[8]

As of April 2011, Astrobotic had raised the payload price and made a distinction between payload fixed to the lander and payload carried on the lunar rover. The revised baseline prices are $1,800,000 per kilogram ($820,000/lb) for lander payload and $2,000,000 per kilogram ($910,000/lb) for rover payload, with the additional integration fee unchanged at US$250,000 per-payload.[14] Beyond the standard inclusions of 300 Watt-hours of power, and 100 MB of data transfer, per kilogram of mass purchased, pricing has been established for the purchase of additional power or Lunar-to-Earth data transfer.[15]
Moon Missions

Astrobotic has current plans to conduct a lunar landing and rover mission to win the Google Lunar XPRIZE and deliver commercial payload in 2016. Earlier plans from 2011, called for the landing as early as late 2013.

In April 2011, Astrobotic contracted with SpaceX for a Falcon 9 launch on a lunar mission for as early as December 2013. The mission was intended to "deliver a lander, small rover and up to about 240 pounds (110 kg) of payload to the surface of the Moon."[8] A payload user's guide for researchers on preparation of their instruments was released in early March 2011.[16]

In April 2011, Astrobotic stated that follow-on moon missions were tentatively planned for 2015 and 2016. Both to be flown on Falcon 9 launch vehicles, with the same total mission payload as the first mission: 210 kilograms (460 lb), or 110 kilograms (240 lb) customer payload if the 100 kilograms (220 lb) rover is included on the mission. The 2015 mission was named Polar Excavator (now Icebreaker), would target the lunar north pole, and was nominally planned for July 2015 (now October 2015).[17] This expedition's rover was to be Polaris. The 2016 mission, as of April 2011, was to be customer driven, and land at a destination that was to be selected by the customer.[18] By August 2011, per version 2.4 of the User's Guide, there had been two small changes to the mission manifest with the first mission now aimed for either an Apollo site or a skylight entrance to a lava tube, and the launch date has been changed to a range: December 2013 to April 2014.[15]

By October 2011, Astrobotic had delayed the lunar mission launch date to "late 2014 or early 2015", indicating that they were still under contract to SpaceX for a Falcon 9 mission.[19]

As of May 2012, the Astrobotic mission on the SpaceX Falcon 9 was rescheduled for October 2015. In October 2015, a Polaris rover was to carry out the same or similar tasks to NASA's RESOLVE. (Polaris was designed to be capable of carrying the RESOLVE payload.)[20][21] A constructed Polaris rover was unveiled in October 2012 [22]

By February 2015, Astrobotic had further delayed the moon mission to the second-half of 2016, but then contracted with two other GLXP teams including Team Hakuto and Team AngelicvM. The agreement is to launch the rovers of all teams on a single SpaceX Falcon 9 which would then use the Astrobotic Griffin lander to touch down on the surface of the Moon. After landing on the lunar surface, all teams will compete against each other to achieve the objectives and win the GLXP prize.[23][24][dated info] It is now planned for late 2017.[25]
Mars Mission

In 2012, a private project led by Dutch researcher Bas Landsorp to establish a permanent human colony on Mars, called Mars One, listed Astrobotic as a potential supplier. President John Thornton said, "Exploration, settlement and utilization of the solar system is mankind's next giant leap. Mars One exemplifies the human spirit and its limitless curiosity."[26]

Astrobotic was considered for the Mars One rover, which must: travel autonomously around Mars to locate the most suitable area for settlement, measure the amount of water in the soil, transport the landers, remove protective panels from the landers, lay out the roll of panels, extract the still deflated living Unit from the Lander, connect the air tube between the life support unit and the living unit, and deposit soil in the support unit for water extraction and carry away the dry ground.[27]
See also

Exploration of Mars
Exploration of the Moon
Lunar rover


"Astrobotic Technology and Raytheon Collaborate to Pursue Google Lunar X Prize". Retrieved 2008-02-14.
"Partners". Astrobotic. Retrieved 12 August 2012.
"Private race to the moon (and money) takes off". 2008-02-22. Retrieved 2011-02-08. "Astrobotic: Headed by William 'Red' Whittaker of Carnegie Mellon University, the team expects their 'Artemis Lander' and 'Red Rover' spacecraft to touch down first on the moon."
Doornbas, Michael. "Google Lunar X Prize Team Scorecard / Scoreboard". Evadot. Retrieved 9 August 2012.
"NASA Awards Contracts for Concepts of Lunar Surface Systems". NASA. Retrieved 9 August 2012.
"NASA Contract to Astrobotic Technology Investigates Prospecting for Lunar Resources". Astrobotic. Retrieved 9 August 2012.
"NASA Selects Companies for Further Lunar Demonstrations Data". NASA. Retrieved 9 August 2012.
"SpaceX Lands Contract To Fly To Moon". Aviation Week. 2011-02-08. Retrieved 2011-02-08. "Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic Technology, a Carnegie Mellon University spin-off company, has signed a launch services contract with Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) for a Falcon 9 rocket to deliver a lander, small rover and up to about 240 lb. of payload to the surface of the Moon"
"2011 NIAC Phase I Selections". NASA. Retrieved 9 August 2012.
"NASA Awards Contract for Lunar Gravity Simulation Device". Astrobotic. Retrieved 9 August 2012.
"Transitions for two space entrepreneurs". NewSpace Journal. 31 May 2012.
"RELEASE 14-126 NASA Selects Partners for U.S. Commercial Lander Capabilities". NASA.GOV website. NASA. April 30, 2014. Retrieved May 3, 2014.
"About Lunar CATALYST". NASA.GOV website. NASA. Retrieved May 3, 2014.
"Payloads and Services". Astrobotic Technology. Retrieved 2011-04-10. "The initial mission will have 110 kilograms (240 lbs) of mass available, split between the lander and the rover, as well as power and communications support. The baseline price is $1.8 million per kilogram on the lander and $2 million per kilogram on the rover, with a $250,000 integration fee per payload regardless of mass. ... Parties interested in AstroboticTM services such as noted above should download and read the AstroboticTechnologyPayloadUserGuide_v2.1"
"Lander & Rover Payload Userís Guide Version 2.4". Astrobotic Technology. "Mission Launch Date Vehicle(s) Landing Site Payload; Moon Cruiser, Dec 2013 to April 2014, Falcon 9 / Lander / Rover, An Apollo site or skylight entrance to lava tube, 110 kg; Polar Excavator, July 2015, Falcon 9 / Lander / Rover, South Pole, 110 kg; Customer Driven, Q3 2016, Falcon 9 / Lander / [Rover], Customer Driven, 210 [110] kg; ... Actual launch dates and destinations are determined by customer demands; additional targets include lava tubes, circumnavigations, etc. Missions landing without a rover can deliver 210 kg of payload."
"Astrobotic's Mission to the Moon Releases Payload User's Guide". X Prize Foundation. 2011-03-03. Retrieved 2011-03-05. "To get their sensors and experiments to the lunar surface, researchers have had to propose entire missions to space agencies such as NASA or the European Space Agency. ... This initiative allows engineers and scientists to focus on just their own instruments, with Astrobotic providing the delivery and support utilities like power and communications. They can buy just what they need from us by the pound, watt, and byte."
"Icebreaker: Prospecting the Moon". Astrobotic. Retrieved 12 August 2012.
"Lander & Rover Payload Userís Guide Version 2.1". Mission manifest (Astrobotic Technology). "Mission Launch Date Vehicle(s) Landing Site Payload Moon Cruiser December 2013 Falcon 9 / Lander / Rover An Apollo Site 110 kg Polar Excavator July 2015 Falcon 9 / Lander / Rover South Pole 110 kg Customer Driven Q3 2016 Falcon 9 / Lander / [Rover] Customer Driven 210 [110] kg ... Actual launch dates and destinations are determined by customer demands; additional targets include lava tubes, circumnavigations, etc. Missions landing without a rover can deliver 210 kg of payload."
Grush, Loren (2011-10-27). "Race to Mine the Moon Heats Up". Fox News. Retrieved 2012-01-22. "planned to launch in late 2014 or early 2015"
"Resolve Rover". Retrieved 3 September 2012.
Specner, Malia (2012-05-29). "SpaceX success brings Pittsburgh space startup closer to mission". Pittsburgh Business Times. Retrieved 2012-05-31.
"Astrobotic Unveils Lunar Polar Robot". Retrieved 10 October 2012.
"Two Google Lunar XPRIZE Teams Announce Rideshare Partnership For Mission To The Moon In 2016". Xprize Foundation. 23 February 2015. Retrieved 6 March 2015. "Hakuto [... and fellow competitor] Astrobotic [will] carry a pair of rovers to the moon. Astrobotic plans to launch its Google Lunar XPRIZE mission on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Fla., during the second half of 2016. HAKUTO’s twin rovers, Moonraker and Tetris, will piggyback on Astrobotic's Griffin lander to reach the lunar surface. Upon touchdown, the rovers will be released simultaneously ... in pursuit of the $20M Google Lunar XPRIZE Grand Prize."
"Google Lunar XPrize teams partner for a 2016 SpaceX moonshot". cnet. 2015-02-23. Retrieved 2016-03-04.
"Astrobotic Adds Another Google Lunar X Prize Team to Its Lander".
"Suppliers". Mars-One. Retrieved 12 August 2012.

"Rover". Mars One. Retrieved 14 November 2012.

External links

Astrobotic website
Astrobotic Technology Payload User Guide v2.5, undated month, 2011. ("Pricing valid through December 31, 2011")
Astrobotic Technology Payload User Guide v2.1, April 2011.
Astrobotic Technology Payload User Guide v2.0, March 2011.
Carnegie Mellon Lunar Rover
Astrobotic Google Lunar X-Prize Page


Space Encyclopedia

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