PAYLOADS TO BE LAUNCHED ON UPCOMING SPACEX MISSION TO THE MOON

Credit: Astrolab

Astrolab’s Flexible Logistics and Exploration (FLEX) rover is shown in this rendering using its robotic arm to deploy a small plant pod designed by Interstellar Lab on the lunar surface. The plant pod is one of the payloads FLEX will carry to the Moon on Mission 1, which is expected to be completed as soon as mid-2026.

HAWTHORNE, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)—Today Venturi Astrolab, Inc. (Astrolab), announced it has reached an agreement with eight enterprise customers to use its Flexible Logistics and Exploration (FLEX) rover to deploy the customers’ payloads on Astrolab’s upcoming mission to the Moon which is known as Mission 1. Five customers are releasing details of their payloads today: Argo Space, Astroport, Avalon Space, Interstellar Lab, and LifeShip. Three more customers are contracted with Astrolab but intend to release details of their payloads at a future date, closer to launch. Collectively, these eight contracts are valued at more than $160 million.

As part of Mission 1, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) will transport Astrolab’s Flexible Logistics and Exploration (FLEX) rover to the lunar surface. SpaceX will use the Starship launch and landing system for this mission as soon as mid-2026. Following landing on the Moon, FLEX will deploy payloads for each of the customers. SpaceX and Astrolab expect Mission 1 to be completed as soon as mid-2026.

“Our entire Astrolab team is excited to welcome these businesses to Mission 1,” said Jaret Matthews, CEO and Founder, Astrolab. “Together, they represent a cross-section of the emerging lunar economy. As we get closer to our launch date, we expect to make additional customer announcements.”

Matthews added that given FLEX’s total payload capacity of 1,500 KG, Astrolab is able to substantially lower the cost of deploying payloads on the lunar surface while providing unparalleled maneuverability, range, power, and communications capabilities. The company estimates its prices are approximately ten times more affordable than those of competitors.

The Astrolab customers announced today include:

Argo Space Corp. (Argo) of Hermosa Beach, California intends to use FLEX to deploy a demonstration payload that will advance the development of Argo's unique, scalable technology designed to harvest low-concentration water from Lunar regolith. Argo’s novel processing approach will economically extract water outside of permanently shadowed regions (PSRs). This mission is a major step in the company’s efforts to use water from regolith for commercial applications to make in-space transportation abundant and build a Lunar economy. “We’re excited to work with Astrolab on this and future missions to catalyze a commercial Lunar economy and a sustained presence on the Moon,” said Robert Carlisle, CEO, Argo Space.

Astroport Space Technologies of San Antonio, Texas builds infrastructure for the Moon, and intends to melt regolith to make bricks for roads, launch and landing pads, and shelters. To understand the properties of the regolith in the lunar environment, the payload will demonstrate a proof of concept for a proprietary sieving and grain separation technology that mitigates electrostatic forces inherent in the regolith. This technology will isolate the regolith grains that are ideal for manufacturing lunar bricks. FLEX’s robotic arm will collect regolith for the sieving and grain separation experiment.

Separately, the Astroport payload also includes a limited number of personalized lunar simulant basalt bricks sold exclusively for placement on the lunar surface to mark the start of the first road on the Moon. “Our ideal customer for our personalized brick program is someone from an Artemis Accords signatory country who places an order for a brick to be made from the basalt soil of their respective country,” said Sam Ximenes, CEO, Astroport. FLEX will use its robotic arm to install these bricks to begin the construction of this initial lunar road.

Avalon Space of Toronto will use FLEX to conduct a series of science, exploration and sustainable development experiments focused on the emerging lunar economy, leveraging a suite of both onboard and deployed elements on the lunar surface.

I don’t think anyone doubts that there will likely be a pre-Starship and post-Starship point in human history,” said Dr. Nadeem Ghafoor, CEO of Avalon Space. “We’re thrilled to be working with Astrolab and our international and commercial partners on this first mission to help unlock the potential of this new era of beyond-Earth orbit development. The next decade is going to change everything, and we’re looking forward to doing our part to help it be as peaceful, collaborative, impactful and economically significant as possible.”

Interstellar Lab of Ivry-sur-Seine, France and Kennedy Space Center, Florida plans to use FLEX to deploy the two small plant pods on the lunar surface. Once deployed, Interstellar Lab will measure the impact of the lunar environment on the plant’s phenotype and molecular composition. "We are very excited to team up with Astrolab for our mission LITTLE PRINCE,” said Barbara Belvisi, founder and CEO, Interstellar Lab. “As Antoine Saint Exupéry wrote: "If you love a flower that lives on a star, it is sweet to look at the sky at night. All the stars are a-bloom with flowers."

“This is the first of many Interstellar Lab missions,” Belvisi added. “We look forward to helping our terrestrial customers access Space and grow a garden on the Moon.”

LifeShip, Inc. of San Diego, California intends to use FLEX to deliver a capsule containing a DNA seed bank and data archive to the lunar surface. LifeShip is saving the essence of Earth across space and time, with products for people to include themselves in the story. “This is an exciting mission! With LifeShip, anyone can be part of humanity's eternal legacy amongst the stars. People can add their DNA, photos, and stories at www.lifeship.com,” said Ben Haldeman, CEO, LifeShip.

LifeShip is establishing a seed bank of Earth's biodiversity on the lunar surface. “Humans have built seed banks here on Earth for thousands of years. This will be an off-world backup of our biosphere,” Haldeman added.

Upon completion of Mission 1, Astrolab’s FLEX will become the largest and most capable rover to ever travel to the Moon. With a maximum combined rover and cargo mass of more than two tons, the FLEX rover is nearly three times the mass of its largest predecessor. FLEX is also equipped with a highly dexterous robotic arm that can be used to deploy customer payloads, manipulate instruments, and collect samples. This increased capacity and versatility provides significantly more opportunities to conduct scientific experiments and commercial endeavors on the lunar surface.

About Astrolab

Venturi Astrolab, Inc. (Astrolab) is on a mission to move humanity forward to the next horizon by designing, building, and operating a fleet of multi-purpose rovers for all planetary surface needs. Formed by a highly specialized team of NASA veterans, former SpaceXers and JPL engineers, Astrolab is laser-focused on providing adaptive mobility solutions essential for life beyond Earth. The team has industry leading experience in terrestrial and planetary robotics, electric vehicles, human spaceflight and more. Astrolab’s depth of experience and strategic partnerships with a wide array of world-class institutions, including electric vehicle pioneer Venturi Group, enables the delivery of Lunar and Mars mobility offerings at maximum reliability, flexibility and cost effectiveness. The company is headquartered in Hawthorne, California.

Source: Astrolab

Kris Christiaens's Avatar

Kris Christiaens

This article was published by FutureSpaceFlight founder and chief editor Kris Christiaens. Kris Christiaens has been passionate and fascinated by spaceflight and space exploration all his life and has written hundreds of articles on space projects, the commercial space industry and space missions over the past 20 years for magazines, books and websites. In late 2021, he founded the website FutureSpaceFlight with the goal of promoting new space companies and commercial space projects and compiling news of these start-ups and companies on one website.