NASA cooperates with commercial companies that can deliver its cargo to the moon. As part of this initiative, Astrobotic Technology was to send the VIPER (Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover) lunar rover to the surface of the satellite. The delivery was supposed to take place in November 2023, but now it got postponed for a year – until November 2024.
VIPER was supposed to arrive at the South Pole of the Moon to search for surface ice and other potential resources. Based on the rover’s measurements, scientists will be able to better understand the origin and distribution of water on the satellite. It will also help to determine how it will be possible to collect the Moon’s resources for further exploration of space by humans.
NASA signed a contract with a private American company to deliver the rover. The agency recently asked the Astrobotic and VIPER teams to reschedule the rover’s launch. This decision was made due to NASA’s requirement to conduct additional tests of the Griffin lunar lander, which should deliver VIPER to the surface of the satellite.
Additional testing should reduce the risk of rover delivery. For these, NASA allocated an additional $67.8 million, so in total Astrobotic Technology will receive $320.4 for the entire mission. The private company is working with NASA as part of the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative, which will allow commercial carriers to quickly deliver cargo to the moon.
“NASA has tasked U.S. companies to perform a very challenging technological feat – to successfully land and operate on the Moon. VIPER is NASA’s largest and most sophisticated science payload to be delivered to the Moon through CLPS, and we’ve implemented enhanced lander testing for this particular CLPS surface delivery,” said the space agency representative.
CLPS is a key part of NASA’s lunar exploration plans. Scientific and technical cargo sent to the surface of the satellite will help lay the groundwork for missions involving astronauts on and around the Moon.