VIPER lunar rover mission cost increases

Up to date March 5 with NASA touch upon mission value.

WASHINGTON — A NASA rover mission to search for ice on the south pole of the moon has handed a key assessment, however now prices considerably greater than beforehand marketed.

NASA’s Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) mission handed its affirmation assessment Feb. 24, the company mentioned in a press release. That enables the mission to maneuver into implementation forward of a launch scheduled for late 2023.

“We’re now prepared to complete the design and operational planning for this rover, after which begin constructing it,” mentioned Daniel Andrews, mission supervisor for VIPER at NASA’s Ames Analysis Middle, the lead middle for the mission, in an company assertion.

The price of the mission has gone up considerably. On the time NASA introduced VIPER in October 2019, it projected a value of about $250 million. As a part of the affirmation assessment, often called Key Resolution Level C, NASA set a proper value dedication for the mission. NASA spokesperson Alison Hawkes mentioned March 3 that the brand new lifecycle value for the mission is $433.5 million.

NASA didn’t initially disclose the explanation for the fee enhance, however NASA officers mentioned in June 2020 that they had been suspending VIPER’s launch by a couple of 12 months to late 2023 to vary the rover’s design so it may meet the aim of working for 100 days on the lunar floor. On the time, the company declined to touch upon VIPER’s value.

In a March 5 assertion, NASA mentioned the unique $250 million value was primarily based on the unique design for the mission. “Since 2019, the VIPER mission has developed to assist an enhanced science investigation, and extra funds have been allotted to VIPER to replicate these modifications,” such because the 100-day mission length, an company spokesperson mentioned. That prolonged length will permit VIPER “to measure and map each the vertical and lateral distributions of water and different volatiles, creating a world map of assets for potential future in-situ utilization.”

VIPER is designed to land close to the south pole of the Moon and examine completely shadowed areas which will have deposits of water ice. Any ice on or close to the floor could possibly be beneficial assets, for all times assist and as propellant, for future human missions.

“Scientific information gathered by VIPER will present perception into the origin and distribution of water on the moon, and assist us put together for human exploration by offering necessary info on the traversability, atmosphere, and assets on the lunar poles,” Sarah Noble, VIPER program scientist at NASA Headquarters, mentioned within the company assertion.

VIPER is predicated on the Useful resource Prospector mission that had been below improvement for years at Ames however canceled in 2018. Useful resource Prospector had a design lifetime of 14 days on the floor, versus the 100 days for VIPER.

VIPER might be delivered to the moon on a industrial lander by means of the Industrial Lunar Payload Companies (CLPS) program. Astrobotic gained a $199.5 million CLPS job order in June 2020 to launch VIPER in late 2023.

VIPER is one among six CLPS missions NASA has awarded so far, together with two every to Astrobotic and Intuitive Machines and particular person missions to Firefly Aerospace and Masten Area Programs. At a March 1 assembly of NASA’s Planetary Science Advisory Committee, Joel Kearns, deputy affiliate administrator for exploration within the Science Mission Directorate, mentioned the primary two CLPS missions are nonetheless scheduled for launch late this 12 months. An Intuitive Machines lander will attain the moon in November, launching on a SpaceX Falcon 9, whereas Astrobotic’s first lander, launching on United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan rocket, will arrive in December.

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