|

NASA Picks Intuitive Machines for $77.5M Moon Science Mission

IntuitiveMachines NASA 400x275

November 17, 2021

NASA has announced it awarded Intuitive Machines of Houston a contract to deliver research, including science investigations and a technology demonstration, to the Moon in 2024. The commercial delivery is part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative and the Artemis program.

Four investigations will be aboard the Nova-C lander, destined for Reiner Gamma, “one of the most distinctive and enigmatic natural features on the Moon,” said NASA. Known as a lunar swirl, Reiner Gamma is on the western edge of the Moon (as seen from Earth), and is one of the most visible lunar swirls. Scientists are looking to learn more about how lunar swirls form, and their relationship to the Moon’s magnetic field.

One of the four investigations is the Cooperative Autonomous Distributed Robotic Exploration (CADRE, pictured at right), which consists of mobile robots programmed to work as an autonomous team to explore the lunar surface, collect data, and map different areas of the Moon in 3D. CADRE uses its inertial measurement unit (IMU), stereo cameras, and a Sun sensor to track the position of each robot as they explore the lunar surface. CADRE is led by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

cadre side image“This delivery to the Moon will help the U.S. expand our capabilities and learn more about this interesting region,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “Observing lunar swirls can give us information about the Moon’s radiation environment and perhaps how to mitigate its effects. With more and more science and technology demonstrations on the lunar surface, we can help prepare for sustainable astronaut missions through Artemis.”

Intuitive Machines will receive $77.5 million for the contract, and is responsible for end-to-end delivery services, including payload integration, delivery from Earth to the surface of the Moon, and payload operations. This award is the company’s third task order award, the first of which is a delivery to Oceanus Procellarum on the Moon during the first quarter of 2022. The ward is the seventh surface delivery task award issued to a CLPS partner, NASA said.

“These investigations show how CLPS is capable of delivering payloads to the lunar surface that will address our primary scientific goals for lunar exploration and discovery,” said Chris Culbert, manager of the CLPS initiative. “We aim to learn more about lunar swirls and this payload manifest is designed to obtain data unique to the geographical feature of Reiner Gamma.”

The other three investigations include:

  • Lunar Vertex, which is a combination of stationary lander payloads and a rover that will make detailed measurements of the magnetic field, plasma environment and regolith properties. The lander and rover data will augment observations collected in orbit. Combined, the observations will show how the lunar swirls form and evolve, and how they connect to local magnetic fields in the same regions. Lunar Vertex is led by the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland.
  • MoonLIGHT retroflector reflects laser beams sent from Earth directly back from the Moon to receivers on Earth. This allows very precise measurement of the distances between the reflector and the ground station. This technique can be used to investigate relativity, the gravitational dynamics of the Earth-Moon system and the deep lunar interior. MoonLIGHT is managed by the European Space Agency.
  • Lunar Space Environment Monitor (LUSEM) uses a pair of apertures to detect high-energy particles on the lunar surface. LUSEM will monitor variations in the near-surface space environment when the Moon is inside and outside Earth’s magnetotail – the trailing end of the magnetic fields surrounding our planet, which can serve as a buffer for incoming radiation. LUSEM is managed by the Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute (KASI) in South Korea.

NASA said future payloads that may be delivered with CLPS could include other rovers, power sources, and science experiments, including technology demonstrations to later be infused into the Artemis program.


Robotics World News

  • Phantom AI Raises $36.5M to Advance Autonomous Driving Platform

    Phantom AI Raises $36.5M to Advance Autonomous Driving Platform

    Phantom AI, a Silicon Valley-based startup developing an autonomous driving platform with computer vision, sensor fusion and control capabilities, has announced it raised $36.5 million in a Series C funding round. The company aims to help customers reduce accidents and make everyday driving more enjoyable, while also unlocking what is next in the advanced driving… Read More…

  • Raise Robotics Raises $2.2M in Seed Round Funding

    Raise Robotics Raises $2.2M in Seed Round Funding

    Raise Robotics, which develops robotic equipment for construction sites, has announced it raised $2.2 million in a pre-seed funding round (reported by Construction Dive). The company is currently providing fenestration and mass timber contractors with semi-autonomous equipment that completes bracket layout, installment and verification four times faster than standard methods. “Our mission at Raise is… Read More…


Products for Robots & Cobots

  • Xfuse Launches Phoenix ISP for AMD’s SOMs and Vision AI Starter Kit

    Xfuse Launches Phoenix ISP for AMD’s SOMs and Vision AI Starter Kit

    Xfuse LLC, which develops customizable imaging and video technology, has announced immediate availability of its Phoenix HDR ISP for the AMD Kria K26 System-on-Module (SOM) and the KV260 Vision AI Starter Kit. Designed for AI developers and computer vision engineers that need to capture real-time, data-rich imaging streams, the Phoenix HDR ISP delivers fully-tone mapped… Read More…

  • Sponsored Video: Oriental Motor BLV Series R

    Sponsored Video: Oriental Motor BLV Series R

    Brushless motors are commonly used in AGV/AMR designs for battery-powered, compact, and lightweight equipment movement. To assist with this development, Oriental Motors has created the BLV Series R Type of modular automation compatible products. The new motors provide DC power supply options of 60 W, 100 W, 200 W and 400 W. Features of the… Read More…