WASHINGTON – One of three companies selected by NASA less than two months ago to carry payloads to the moon, notified the agency that it would not be able to accomplish this mission, and terminated its contract for nearly $ 100 million.
NASA announced on July 29 that OrbitBeyond informed the agency that "internal corporate challenges" would prevent it from completing a task order that NASA awarded to the company on May 31 as part of its Lunar Payload Commercial Program (CLPS) . The company demanded that it be released from this agreement and NASA agreed.
NASA did not elaborate on what specific issues caused OrbitBeyond to reject its contract with NASA, and the company did not immediately respond to a request for comment. At the May 31
OrbitBeyond received orders for CLPS assignments along with two other companies, Astrobotic and Intuitive Machines. OrbitBeyond is planning to launch first, launching its Z-01 lander on SpaceX Falcon 9 in September 2020. Other companies are planning 2021 landing missions.
OrbitBeyond, based in Edison, NJ, stated that it planned to build its landscapes at a facility in Florida. The company has gained close scrutiny as it uses technology developed by TeamIndus of India, a former competitor of the Google Lunar X Award.
"While this partnership appears to be in line with NASA's demands, the optics are clearly not good," he said reporter Brian Babin (R-Texas) during a hearing on the space committee of the Research Committee on June 11. Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA associate administrator for science, responded that the agency would provide a "full review" of all companies that are received CLPS awards to ensures that they comply with a contract that requires land builders to be built in the United States.
OrbitBeyond received a $ 97 million contract for its landing mission, the largest of three given by NASA in May. was carrying up to four payloads, but NASA did not assign specific payloads to each landing mission at the time, and a spokesman for NASA did not immediately answer questions about how much, if any, money the company received before the award ended.
OrbitBeyond was one of nine companies NASA selected last November for the CLPS program. The agency said the company would have the right to compete for future orders with assignments, with the next opportunity to be completed as expected in late summer or early fall, according to industry representatives.
NASA officials like Zurbuchen emphasize from the beginning of the program that there are risks associated with the program. He emphasized the desire to make "door shots" with the expectation that not every shot would score or any mission would make a successful landing, although this focus was more on the technical rather than the financial risks.
"We know that CLPS missions will be challenging for various reasons, and they may not always succeed," Zurbbuchen said in a NASA statement. "We are ready to take any risk in order to get back to the moon quickly with our trading partners and to make exciting scientific and technological developments with wide applications."
NASA is also planning an "on-the-road" program for CLPS to add new companies. The plans, announced in a June 20 warning message, focus on "medium-sized" landowners capable of delivering between 350 and 1,000 kilograms of payloads on the lunar surface. The Agency updated this notice on July 29 with a series of questions and answers, but has not yet issued a formal request for proposals.