Astrobotic earns $34.6M NASA partnership for lunar power demo

An illustration of Astrobotic’s LunaGrid-Lite system on the Moon. | Source: Astrobotic

Astrobotic has won a $34.6 million NASA Tipping Point partnership to demonstrate the power transmission abilities of its LunaGrid-Lite on the lunar surface. This will be the first-ever transmission of high-voltage power across the lunar surface.

LunaGrid-Lite will transmit power from a lunar lander to a tethered rover. During the demo, an Astrobotic 6U CubeRover will unreel 1 kilometer of cable from an Astrobotic lunar lander and receive the high voltage power. The demonstration will serve as a pilot for Astrobotic’s LunaGrid service, which aims to deliver commercial power service by the Watt to future customers on the lunar surface.

For the demonstration, the lander’s solar arrays will generate power. After landing, a CubeRover carrying a spool of specially designed cable will depart from the lander and deploy the cable to the lunar surface. The system will then transmit 1 kW of power from the lander’s solar arrays, through the cable, and to the CubeRover. Sensors equipped throughout the system will help to verify the system’s performance. 

“LunaGrid-Lite will pave the way for power generation and distribution services on the Moon, and change the game for lunar surface systems like landers, rovers, habitats, science suites, and in-situ resource utilization pilot plants. With renewable, uninterrupted commercial power service, both crewed and robotic operations can be made sustainable for long-term operations,” John Thornton, Astrobotic CEO, said.

The full LunaGrid system will be a power generation and distribution service that could utilize the 20-meter-tall Vertical Solar Array Technology (VSAT) currently being developed under another NASA contract at Astrobotic for power generation, instead of the lander’s solar arrays. 

Astrobotic’s 6U CubeRover will be delivered on an upcoming Astrobotic lander mission as early as 2026, pushing LunaGrid past the commercial tipping point by advancing three critical gap technologies: a high voltage power converter, cable, and cable stowage and deployment system. 

Now that all major elements of LunaGrid are funded, Astrobotic hopes to deploy the service before the end of the decade to begin serving the Artemis program, CLPS, international space agencies, and commercial businesses on the Moon. 

Last year, Astrobotic acquired Masten Space Systems along with its entire portfolio of advanced space technology developed over 18 years of operation for $4.5 million. Masten has completed more than 600 vertical takeoff and landing (VTVL) rocket flights since its founding in 2004.

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