Space start-up Astrobotic has selected SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket to launch its Griffin lunar lander to the Moon in late 2023.
Griffin will be carrying NASA’s water-hunting Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER).
“Getting to the Moon isn’t just about building a spacecraft, but having a complete mission solution,” Daniel Gillies, Griffin Mission 1 Director for Astrobotic, said in a statement.
“SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy completes our Griffin Mission 1 (GM1) solution by providing a proven launch vehicle to carry us on our trajectory to the Moon. SpaceX has the team, vehicle, and facilities to make this happen.”
Astrobotic was awarded a task order in 2020 from NASA to deliver VIPER to the south pole of the Moon as part of the agency’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative.
After Falcon Heavy launches Griffin on a trajectory to the Moon, Griffin will land on the surface and VIPER will disembark from Griffin’s ramps to survey the surface and subsurface for water ice.
These surveys could be the first step toward utilising resources in the space environment — rather than carting them all from Earth — to enable more affordable and sustainable space exploration.
Griffin’s delivery of VIPER will be Astrobotic’s second CLPS delivery, following the company’s Peregrine lander delivery later this year.
“Gaining a better learning of resources on the Moon is critical to advancing humanity’s reach beyond Earth, and we are honoured to support this exciting mission and NASA’s CLPS programme,” said SpaceX Senior Director of Commercial Sales Stephanie Bednarek.
Griffin Mission One is targeted to launch in 2023 from SpaceX’s facilities at Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Work on the Griffin lunar lander is ongoing with qualification testing planned to be completed towards the end of this year, Astrobotic said.