SpaceX grabs most of the headlines when it comes to the private sector, but there are plenty of companies with ambitions of reaching the final frontier. Astrobotic is one of them. And they’re aiming beyond low-Earth orbit.
In 2019, Astrobotic will place their Peregrine Lunar Lander atop a United Launch Alliance rocket. 50 years after Apollo 11’s humanity defining landing on the Moon, Astrobotic will attempt a landing of their own.
Getting into space shouldn’t be an issue. ULA is no stranger to tackling the forces of Earth’s gravity and getting payloads into space. But it’s all on Astrobotic to get their lander on the Moon’s surface in one piece.
“The Moon is the next great frontier, but in a different way than when Neil Armstrong landed there. Enabling technologies like those from Astrobotic will allow people to live and work in the space between here and the Moon and take advantage of all those resources in a way that is sustainable,” says ULA’s Tory Bruno.
Astrobotic’s John Thornton added, “Together, our two organizations will honor the past and trail blaze the lunar future.”
A video animation from Astrobotic gives us an idea of how the mission will play out.
You’re not seeing things. That is a DHL box at 1:31. Astrobotic has a corporate sponsorship with DHL. And the work between the two companies goes a bit further than a logo on the spacecraft.
The DHL MoonBox
Most of us will never set foot on the Moon, but a piece of you can. A lock of hair, a family photo, or your company’s logo. The DHL MoonBox will deliver it for a surprisingly decent price, considering the destination.
A half-inch wide capsule costs $460. The exact measurements are 0.5” x 0.125”. You can fiddle with the slider on Astrobotic’s website to make the capsule bigger, but expect the costs to go up in a hurry. A 1” x 2” capsule is the biggest you can buy and will cost $25,800.
There are restrictions to what you can send to the Moon. And they’re all obvious. No explosives, weapons, energy storage devices, biological (except teeth and hair), and liquids. Stuff like that.
Also, the purchase is non-refundable. If Astrobotic’s Peregrine Lander doesn’t make it to the Moon, don’t expect your money back.
What else will be aboard Astrobotic’s lander?
Specific payloads haven’t been disclosed yet. But Astrobotic did announce 11 deals with six nations for the 2019 mission. The payload will max out at 35 kilograms for the first mission but can be upgraded to 265 kilograms in the future.
This first mission is all about proving Astrobotic can deliver an operational lunar lander on the Moon’s surface. The company describes the 2019 flight as a “key demonstration of service for NASA, international space agencies, and companies looking to carry out missions to the Moon.”
It’s not just SpaceX pushing into the final frontier. New companies like Astrobotic and Rocket Lab join veterans like ULA and Boeing in the journey into space. We’ll see if Astrobotic can nail their first launch to the Moon in 2019.