1ra misión comercial de vehículo lunar

El desarrollador del rover lunar Astrolab anunció que ocho clientes firmaron contratos por valor de más de 160 millones de dólares para su primera misión a la luna en 2026.

WASHINGTON — Lunar rover developer Astrolab announced eight customers have signed contracts worth more than $160 million for its first mission to the moon in 2026.

The company, formally known as Venturi Astrolab Inc., announced Nov. 21 that it signed the customers to fly payloads on Mission 1, a flight of the company’s Flexible Logistics and Exploration (FLEX) rover slated for as soon as mid-2026. Astrolab announced a contract with SpaceX in March to launch FLEX on that mission on a Starship commercial lander.

“Our entire Astrolab team is excited to welcome these businesses to Mission 1,” Jaret Matthews, chief executive and founder of Astrolab, said in a statement. “Together, they represent a cross-section of the emerging lunar economy.”

Astrolab disclosed the names of five of the eight customers. All are relatively early-stage startups developing technologies associated with long-term lunar development. The companies did not disclose the individual values of each contract.

Argo Space Corp., one of the customers of Mission 1, plans to fly a demonstration payload on the rover to test technology to extract low concentrations of water from lunar regolith. Astroport Space Technologies will send a payload to test how to sort lunar regolith to obtain grains best suited for producing lunar bricks as construction materials. Avalon Space will contribute an unspecified series of “science, exploration and sustainable development” experiments.

Interstellar Lab will fly two small pods carrying plants that the rover will deploy on the lunar surface to see how the plants grow in the lunar environment. LifeShip will send a capsule carrying a DNA seed bank and data archive as part of that company’s effort to establish a seed bank on the lunar surface as an “off-world backup.”

Three customers remain undisclosed for now, although Astrolab said in the statement those customers plan to disclose their participation closer to the launch. Astrolab is continuing to look for customers for Mission 1, noting that the FLEX rover has a payload capacity of 1,500 kilograms and a modular system for accommodating a range of payloads.

The announcement of the rover customers did not include details on the duration of the rover mission or the projected landing location. In an interview in March, Matthews said that while the rover is optimized for the south polar region of the moon, given the interest there because of the potential presence of water ice, the rover can travel thousands of kilometers, reducing the sensitivity to a specific landing site.

While Mission 1 is a robotic mission, Astrolab is also developing a version of the rover that can carry astronauts, and offered it to NASA for the agency’s Lunar Terrain Vehicle competition. NASA plans to procure lunar rovers as service, much as it is doing for lunar landers, starting with the Artemis 5 mission late this decade.

NASA planned to make one or more awards for the rovers this month. However, the agency said in October it was delayed those awards to late March “to allow additional time to evaluate proposals.”

Fuente: https://spacenews.com