Spacebit books a second trip to the moon via NASA's commercial lunar payload program

Darrell Etherington
·1 min read
Intuitive Machines' Nova-C lunar lander concept render.
Intuitive Machines' Nova-C lunar lander concept render.

U.K.-based robotic rover startup Spacebit has booked a second payload delivery to the moon, aboard the Nova-C lander that Intuitive Machines is planning to send in 2021 as part of NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program. Spacebit already has a berth aboard the Astrobotic Peregrine lander that's set to go to the moon in July 2021, flying atop a Vulcan Centaur rocket, and so this would follow quickly on the heels of that mission, with a current mission time frame of October 2021 to deliver the Intuitive Machines lander via a SpaceX Falcon 9.

Spacebit's Asagumo four-legged walking rover is set to fly on that first CLPS mission (which NASA created to source commercial partners for delivering experiments and payloads to the moon along with over private cargo ahead of its Artemis crewed moon missions). For this second Nova-C lander launch, Spacebit is preparing a wheeled rover that will carry a small NASA scientific module. Both the wheeled and the walking rover are designed to help assess what kind of resources are available on the surface of the moon, with the aim of providing support for the Artemis program.

This will provide Spacebit with multiple opportunities to assess the makeup of the regolith (the equivalent of soil for other planets), which is its primary goal with these missions. The different rover designs will also mean it can better assess which is more amenable to the task. The four-legged design is intended to make the walking rover better able to deal with uneven surfaces, allowing it to potentially explore lava flow tubes and other cave-like areas that could be suitable for natural shelter and future lunar habitat creation.