SpaceX has beat United Launch Alliance (ELA) to secure a contract for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA’s) Griffin rover. Earlier this month, NASA revealed that it had selected SpaceX to launch its Griffin rover. This new contract signals a strong connection between NASA and SpaceX.
In 2020, NASA awarded the private robotics company Astrobotic with a rover contract. NASA is currently planning to investigate the moon’s surface for signs of ice and water. To build the rover, it partnered with Astrobotic. Astrobotic will design and manufacture a new rover named Griffin that NASA will use to investigate the lunar surface.
It’s believed that the moon contains large concentrations of ice. Some researchers have theorized that it may contain over 15,000 square miles of ice. This ice, of course, could prove invaluable for long-term missions to the moon. Of course, it’s currently unknown where this ice is located. This has prompted NASA to partner with Astrobitc to build the Griffin rover. The Griffin rover will contain an array of instruments to search for signs of water and ice.
Building the Griffin rover is just one piece of the puzzle, though. NASA must also launch the Griffin rover to the moon, after which it must land the Griffin rover on the lunar surface. Rather than performing the launch in-house, NASA has opted to use the services of SpaceX. Astrobotic will still build the Griffin rover on behalf of NASA, but SpaceX is poised to deliver it via its Falcon Heavy rocket.
When speaking about the new Griffin rover mission, Daniel Gillies revealed that SpaceX’s Heavy Falcon is the perfect launch vehicle. “Getting to the Moon isn’t just about building a spacecraft, but having a complete mission solution,” explained Astrobict’s Daniel Gillies in a statement. “SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy completes our GM1 solution by providing a proven launch vehicle to carry us on our trajectory to the Moon. SpaceX has the team, vehicle, and facilities to make this happen.”
The Falcon Heavy launch vehicle is a rocket designed by SpaceX. It’s a variation of the Falcon 9 launch vehicle, the main difference being that it has a higher payload capacity. SpaceX performed its maiden launch of the Falcon Heavy in February 2018 by sending Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster into space. In 2023, SpaceX will use its Rocket Heavy launch vehicle to send the Griffin rover to the moon where it will search the lunar surface for signs of water and ice.