NASA Delays Lunar Rover Contract for Artemis MissionNASA Delays Lunar Rover Contract for Artemis Mission
A selected developer of the rover, intended to transport astronauts across the moon’s surface, was expected to be announced in November
November 8, 2023
NASA has delayed its decision on who will build the lunar rover for its Artemis mission by four months.
The winner of NASA’s Lunar Terrain Vehicle (LTV) services contract was set to be announced in November, however, the space agency updated its procurement website, moving the expected contract award date to March 31, 2024.
While the agency did not explain the delay, questions have arisen as to the project’s future in light of the news.
Several companies had already voiced interest in creating anLTV for the mission, including startups Astrolab and Intuitive Machines, as well as large-scale companies such as Lockheed Martin, Leidos and Teledyne Brown.
This is not the first delay seen by the project.
Jim Free, NASA’s associate administrator for Exploration Systems Development, expressed concern that SpaceX's Starship vehicle – selected to carry the rover for the Artemis mission – would not be ready by the set launch date of late 2025, and could push the mission into 2026.
During an August briefing at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center, Free also said the agency was looking into potential hardware delays with Starship, and that it was contemplating moving forward with other partners.
“We’re holding all contractors to that December 2025 date,” he said. “We may end up flying a different mission…if we have these big slips out, we've looked at if we can do other missions.
“They need to launch multiple times, not just for us but for them. We really want to see them finding success in their launches but my concern is the same [as before] – they haven’t launched.”
Under the Artemis mission, NASA is planning to send four astronauts to the moon to “explore more of the lunar surface than ever before,” and reestablish a human presence on the moon for the first time since the Apollo 17 mission in 1972.
The LTV would be used to transport astronauts across the moon’s surface as they explore its south polar region.
“Artemis astronauts will drive to explore and sample more of the lunar surface using the LTV than they could on foot,” according to NASA’s website. “NASA will contract LTV as a service from industry rather than owning the rover.”
Findings from the mission will then be used to inform the ambitious mission of sending astronauts to Mars.
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