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Astrolab Signs Starship Launch Agreement For FLEX Rover Mission

Astrolab has signed an agreement with SpaceX to transport Astrolab’s FLEX rover on an upcoming mission to the Moon using SpaceX's Starship as early as 2026.

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Zac Aubert

Zac Aubert

Fri Mar 31 2023Written by Zac Aubert

Venturi Astrolab, Inc. (Astrolab) has signed an agreement with Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) to transport Astrolab’s Flexible Logistics and Exploration (FLEX) rover on an upcoming mission to the Moon using SpaceX's Starship launch and landing system as early as 2026.

FLEX will become the largest and most capable rover to ever travel to the Moon, with a maximum combined rover and cargo mass of over two tons. This increased capacity provides significantly more opportunities to conduct scientific experiments and commercial endeavors on the lunar surface.

FLEX is more than just a rover; it is a logistics system for missions to the Moon and Mars. Astrolab designed FLEX to transport and deploy payloads in a modular system, allowing for a highly capable and versatile rover to establish infrastructure, conduct high-priority science, and deploy technology demos and other specialized systems on the lunar surface.

In addition to being able to operate FLEX on the lunar surface from Earth, Astrolab designed the vehicle to serve as an unpressurized rover for a crew of two astronauts on the lunar surface.

Astrolab plans for FLEX to be the first in a fleet of FLEX rovers on the lunar surface that will accelerate the vision of creating a permanent human presence on the Moon and eventually Mars.

This FLEX rover design is compatible with NASA’s requirements for its Lunar Terrain Vehicle (LTV). Astrolab is preparing to propose the FLEX rover to NASA as part of the agency's upcoming Lunar Terrain Vehicle (LTV) competition. NASA is expected to issue a request for proposals by May 2023 for the LTV, which will not only be used by astronauts on missions starting with Artemis 5 in the late 2020s but will also be operable robotically between human landings.

“Our Astrolab team has created much more than a rover for use on the Moon or Mars...we’ve created a logistics system that can accommodate a wide variety of cargo. We expect that this approach will help establish a permanent lunar outpost on the Moon at a lower cost and in less time than previously envisioned. We are delighted that this contract with SpaceX will allow Astrolab to demonstrate the advantages of the FLEX rover and its modular payload system.” - Jaret Matthews, Astrolab Founder and CEO

"Starship is designed to transport large amounts of cargo, including rovers, to the Moon and Mars for research and exploration. Developing sustainable outposts will require lunar logistics and transportation on the surface of the Moon, like what Astrolab offers. We look forward to working with the Astrolab team to deliver their FLEX Rover to the surface of the Moon." - Tom Ochinero, SpaceX Senior Vice President

Testing of the FLEX rover began last year with a full-scale, fully-functional terrestrial prototype of the FLEX rover in the California desert. Tests included both crewed and telerobotic operations, deployment of a variety of large payloads, science operations with its robotic arm, and engineering testing of the rover’s mobility performance in challenging terrain. Testing has continued in lunar analog sites around California throughout 2022 and into this year.

Astrolab has already signed several customer agreements to carry payloads on this mission, with details to be released later this spring.

About AstroLab

Astrolab is dedicated to advancing humanity to the next frontier by designing, constructing, and operating a fleet of multi-purpose rovers suitable for all planetary surface requirements.

With a specialized expertise in terrestrial and planetary robotics, electric vehicles, human spaceflight, and more, Astrolab is committed to providing adaptable mobility solutions crucial for life beyond Earth. Through strategic partnerships with renowned institutions, including electric vehicle pioneer Venturi Group, Astrolab delivers Lunar and Mars mobility offerings with maximum reliability, flexibility, and cost-effectiveness.

The company is headquartered in Hawthorne, California.