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Forum:Commercial Space - Military Space
Topic:Astrobotic Peregrine lunar lander (2023)
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Peregrine will return America to the Moon for the first time since Apollo and begin delivering customer payloads once a year starting in 2020. Dynetics will integrate Peregrine's main engines and attitude control thrusters, controller electronics, tanks, and feed system into a single system that performs all propulsive maneuvers from cruise to soft landing on the Moon. The Dynetics-led system will feature a propellant with a next-generation oxidizer called MON-25, which has a higher nitric oxide content to provide better thermal capability to operate more efficiently in deep space environments than previous oxidizers. Dynetics will procure the engines from Simi Valley, CA-based Frontier Aerospace, which is under contract with NASA to qualify the engines for lunar missions.

In keeping with Astrobotic's product line philosophy for reliable lunar missions, the company intends to use the Dynetics propulsion system on ongoing Peregrine missions. With this agreement, Astrobotic further solidifies its supply chain for a dependable, low-cost manifest of missions that enables companies, governments, universities, and nonprofits to plan their campaigns of science, exploration, and commerce on the Moon.

"Astrobotic is thrilled to have Dynetics join our world-class team of partners, and this multi-mission agreement stands to propel Peregrine landers for years to come," said John Thornton, CEO of Astrobotic. "With a proven track record of successfully delivering for NASA and other U.S. Government customers, Dynetics was the right choice for Astrobotic."

"Dynetics is proud to be partnering with Astrobotic. We are located in the "Rocket City" and our city is known for our years of engineering accomplishments, including landing on the Moon in 1969. Dynetics is excited to build onto that legacy and provide access for commercial customers who want to explore. We stand ready to deliver for this exciting service and help forge a new path forward for America to the Moon," said Dynetics CEO David King.

Congressman Mo Brooks of Alabama and Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania also weighed in on today's announcement.

"As a child growing up in Huntsville, Alabama, I remember the great pride in America I felt the moment Neil Armstrong stepped from the lunar lander onto the moon in 1969. That was a defining moment in American history and to this day one of mankind's greatest achievements. More recently, the renewed focus on commercial space exploration and a return to the moon has again sparked pride and excitement among the American people," said U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville. "Like during the Apollo era, much of the work being done to take astronauts to the moon is happening in the Tennessee Valley. I'm very pleased Astrobotic and Dynetics, a homegrown Huntsville company, are partnering to produce the next generation of lunar lander. As Vice-Chair of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee's Space Subcommittee, I congratulate these two firms on their partnership, and I look forward to seeing the end result of their work together."

"Pennsylvania businesses have a long history of leading innovation," said Senator Bob Casey, D-Pennsylvania." I'm pleased to see Astrobotic working with Dynetics to put the lunar lander back on the moon. When American companies come together to achieve a goal, they can outcompete any in the world."

Robert PearlmanAstrobotic release
Astrobotic Team Selected by ESA to Study Delivery of Lunar Resources Mission

Astrobotic announced today that a team led by Airbus has been competitively selected by the European Space Agency (ESA) to study the delivery of a payload package onboard the Peregrine lunar lander around 2025. The study will analyze Europe's first mission to demonstrate in-situ resource utilization on the Moon.

As part of the team, Astrobotic is in charge of showing how the Peregrine lander's international payload delivery service is best suited to carry this ground-breaking European space resources mission to the Moon. The study team also includes Goonhilly Earth Station Limited of the United Kingdom.

This selection comes following the recent announcement that Astrobotic has been chosen as a 10-year provider to deliver NASA payloads to the Moon through the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program. Astrobotic is the only company to be both selected by NASA CLPS and now by Airbus for this competitively awarded ESA mission study.

"It's incredibly exciting for Astrobotic to be selected by ESA," said Astrobotic CEO John Thornton. "Between our recent win with NASA CLPS, our 12 existing mission deals, and now this selection by ESA, it's clear that Peregrine is the market leading lander service for payload customers around the world."

"Airbus is thrilled to have Astrobotic as a partner on this ESA contract," said Dr. Oliver Juckenhöfel, Vice President On-Orbit Services & Exploration of Airbus. "Having independently vetted the Peregrine lander program during multiple technical milestone reviews, we have seen firsthand how Astrobotic is the mature low-cost delivery service of choice for ESA."

"ESA is not going to the Moon alone and our vision for lunar exploration is based on international partnerships with commercial and industrial organisations. This mission study with Airbus and Astrobotic is a prime example of the new wave of space exploration," said Dr. David Parker, Director of Human and Robotic Exploration at ESA.

Robert PearlmanAstrobotic release
Moon Thrusters Withstand Over 60 Hot-Fire Tests

Future Artemis lunar landers could use next-generation thrusters, the small rocket engines used to make alterations in a spacecraft's flight path or altitude, to enter lunar orbit and descend to the surface. Before the engines make the trip to the Moon, helping deliver new science instruments and technology demonstrations, they're being tested here on Earth.

Above: NASA and Frontier Aerospace are developing next-generation thrusters for use on Astrobotic's Peregrine lunar lander. In March 2020, thruster prototypes performed over 60 hot-fire tests in a vacuum chamber. (Frontier Aerospace)

NASA and Frontier Aerospace of Simi Valley, California, performed roughly 60 hot-fire tests on two thruster prototypes over the course of 10 days. The tests concluded March 16 and took place in a vacuum chamber that simulates the environment of space at Moog-ISP in Niagara Falls, New York. While replicating mission flight operations, engineers collected multiple data streams, including the pressure and stability of the combustion chamber and the pressure and temperature of the feed system, which delivers propellant from tanks to the thruster.

Being developed under NASA's Thruster for the Advancement of Low-temperature Operation in Space (TALOS) project, the thrusters are designed to reduce spacecraft cost, mass and power – three things that constrain every space mission. Astrobotic Technology of Pittsburgh plans to use the new thrusters aboard their Peregrine lunar lander.

"TALOS is about leveraging the benefits of MON-25, which will reduce the amount of power needed for spacecraft when operating in extremely low temperatures," said TALOS Project Manager Greg Barnett at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

The thrusters burn mixed oxides of nitrogen and monomethyl hydrazine propellants (MON-25/MMH), which are capable of operating at low temperatures for an extended period of time without freezing. Although MON-25 has been tested since the 1980s, no spacecraft currently uses the propellant. TALOS is capable of operating at a wide propellant temperature range, between -40 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. That's compared to state-of-the-art thrusters of the same size that generally operate between 45 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Because MON-25 does not need to be conditioned at extreme temperatures like other mixed oxides of nitrogen propellants, it will reduce power requirements for spacecraft operating in low temperatures, resulting in smaller, lighter and less expensive systems. Reducing power requirements for the spacecraft could potentially reduce the number of batteries and the size of solar panels needed to maintain the spacecraft.

"NASA will soon verify this versatile thruster design for space so that the agency and commercial companies can easily implement the technology in future missions," said Barnett. "Astrobotic plans to use this thruster design on their lunar lander that will deliver science and technology payloads to the Moon for NASA in 2021."

Above: A new spacecraft thruster prototype developed under NASA's Thruster for the Advancement of Low-temperature Operation in Space (TALOS) project undergoes a hot-fire test in a vacuum chamber. (Frontier Aerospace)

The TALOS project is slated to perform engine qualification testing in late summer to ready the thruster design for use on Astrobotic's Peregrine lander. Astrobotic is one of several American companies working with NASA to deliver science and technology to the lunar surface through the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative, as part of the Artemis program.

In addition to sending instruments to study the Moon, NASA's Artemis lunar exploration program will land the first woman and next man on the lunar surface by 2024 and establish a sustained presence by 2028. The agency will leverage its Artemis experience and technologies to prepare for the next giant leap – sending astronauts to Mars.

The TALOS thruster is being developed by Frontier Aerospace. The project is led and managed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Once the TALOS design has been qualified for flight, Frontier Aerospace will build the thrusters for Astrobotic's lunar lander under a project called Frontier Aerospace Corporation Engine Testing (FACET). The Game Changing Development program within NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate funds the technology development project.

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