Astrolab announces first customers for commercial lunar rover mission

WASHINGTON — Lunar rover developer Astrolab announced that eight customers have signed contracts worth more than $160 million for its first mission to the Moon in 2026.

The company, formerly known as Venturi Astrolab Inc., announced Nov. 21 that it has signed with customers to carry payloads on Mission 1, a flight of the company’s Flexible Logistics and Exploration (FLEX) rover planned as early as mid-2026. Astrolab announced a contract with SpaceX in March to launch FLEX on this mission on a commercial Starship lander.

“Our entire Astrolab team is excited to welcome these companies to Mission 1,” Jaret Matthews, CEO and founder of Astrolab, said in a statement. “Together they represent a cross-section of the emerging lunar economy.”

Astrolab has disclosed the names of five of the eight customers. These are all relatively early-stage startups developing technologies associated with long-term lunar development. The companies did not disclose the individual values ​​of each contract.

Argo Space Corp., one of Mission 1’s customers, plans to fly a demonstration payload on the rover to test technology for extracting low concentrations of water from lunar regolith. Astroport Space Technologies will send a payload to test how to sort lunar regolith to obtain the grains best suited for producing lunar bricks as building materials. Avalon Space will contribute to an unspecified series of “science, exploration and sustainability” experiments.

Interstellar Lab will fly two small pods carrying plants that the rover will deploy on the lunar surface to see how plants grow in the lunar environment. LifeShip will send a capsule containing a DNA seed bank and data archive as part of that company’s efforts to establish a seed bank on the lunar surface as an “off-world backup.”

Three customers are not disclosed at this time, although Astrolab said in the release that these customers plan to disclose their participation closer to launch. Astrolab continues to seek customers for Mission 1, noting that the FLEX rover has a payload capacity of 1,500 kilograms and a modular system to accommodate a range of payloads.

The rover customer announcement did not include details on the duration of the rover’s mission or the planned landing location. In an interview in March, Matthews said that while the rover is optimized for the moon’s south polar region, given the interest there due to the potential presence of water ice, the rover can travel thousands of kilometers, thereby reducing sensitivity to a specific level. Landing site.

Although Mission 1 is a robotic mission, Astrolab is also developing a version of the rover that can carry astronauts and has proposed it to NASA for the agency’s Lunar Terrain Vehicle competition. NASA plans to acquire lunar rovers as a service, just as it does lunar landers, starting with the Artemis 5 mission at the end of this decade.

NASA planned to give one or more awards to the rovers this month. However, the agency said in October that it had delayed those awards until the end of March “to allow more time to evaluate the proposals.”

Gn tech

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