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NASA Terminates Lunar Landing Contract with OrbitBeyond – Spaceflight Now

OrbitBeyond Z-01 Moon Lander. Credit: OrbitBeyond

NASA terminates a $ 97 million contract with OrbitBeyond, a New Jersey-based company that plans to build robotic landing moons in Florida just two months after announcing an agreement to send scientific instruments to the lunar surface immediately as next year.

OrbitBeyond notified NASA of "internal corporate challenges that will impede the timely completion of its assigned task order," the space agency said in a statement Monday.

NASA announced contracts with OrbitBeyond, Astrobotic and Intuitive Machines on May 31, costing a combined $ 253.5 million to fly scientific flights to the moon in three landing missions in 2020 and 2021.

At that time, OrbitBeyond stated that it could make an unmanned moon landing in September 2020.

NASA said OrbitBeyond requested that it be released from its contract agreement and the space agency fulfilled the request. Officials terminated NASA's order with OrbitBeyond effective July 28, on "terms mutually agreed upon by both parties," the space agency said in a statement.

The officials did not publish any other details regarding the reason for the termination of the contract.

NASA has stated that the termination of the OrbitBeyond contract does not affect the lunar landing missions planned for July 2021 by Astrobotic and Intuitive Machines.

OrbitBeyond remains one of nine companies eligible to compete for future NASA Lunar Payload Services Lunar Payload Services, or CLPS, program.

NASA selected nine commercial vendors last year to promote the development of privately owned lunar landers to achieve a regular frequency of robotic moon landings, similar to the model introduced by NASA for cargo and cargo transportation services to International Space Station.

The CLPS program is also a precursor to the purchase of a large number of NASA r, human-rated lunar landlords to transport astronauts to the space surface of the Space Agency's Artemis program. NASA officials described the CLPS program as an experiment to test contracting mechanisms and the trade industry's willingness to play a larger role in a moon exploration campaign.

"We know that CLPS missions will be challenging for various reasons, and they may not always succeed," said Thomas Zurbbuchen, head of NASA's Washington mission for science. "We are ready to take any risk to get back on the moon quickly with our trading partners and make exciting developments in science and technology with wide applications."

Under the terms of a canceled contract with NASA, OrbitBeyond & Z -01 the lander had to carry up to four NASA payloads to the lunar surface, directing a touch into the lunar zone of Mare Imbrium, a lava plane near the lunar side.

The OrbitBeyond Casket is based on a design developed by TeamIndus, an Indian team that once competed for the Google Lunar X Award. TeamIndus is not eligible to compete for CLPS contracts open to US companies on its own.

OrbitBeyond plans to reuse the design of the Indian team for the Z-01 mission in 2020. The golf cart is sized and will carry up to 90 pounds (40 kilograms) of payloads to the moon's surface.

Siba Padhi, president and CEO of OrbitBeyond, said in May that the company was still in the process of securing full funding for the development of the Z-01. The NASA contract with OrbitBeyond is designed to pay for services and does not fund the upfront development costs that must come from sources other than the CLPS program.

OrbitBeyond considers Ceres Robotics and Honeybee Robotics as key partners in its commercial moon landing program.

The Z-01 landing mission was intended to launch as a secondary payload on the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

Email the author. [19659003] Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @ StephenClark1 .

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