An artist's rendition of what the possible lunar exploration might look like in 2024. Source: NASA

Image Credit : NASA

 

NASA’s Artemis program is a US government-funded crewed spaceflight program that has the goal of landing “the first woman and the next man” on the Moon, specifically at the lunar south pole region by 2024, preparing the way for human missions to Mars.

 

Pioneer Astronautics has been selected by NASA as one of the first four U.S. small businesses to mature a range of technologies for sustainable exploration of the Moon under the Artemis program. By awarding the companies with follow-on funds, with an expected combined value of approximately $17 million, NASA’s small business program will accelerate the development of lunar technologies relevant to Artemis.

Under this contract, Pioneer will develop and deliver cutting edge hardware for the purpose of producing oxygen and steel from lunar regolith, in support of the Artemis program. The technology would support sustainable lunar operations such as manufacturing using resources already on the Moon, also known as in-situ resource utilization.

“Small businesses are integral to the development of space technology. With this new lunar sequential funding opportunity, they will advance in-situ resource utilization, laser communications, and other high-impact technologies for use on the Moon,”

“Each business has a track record of success with NASA, and we believe their technologies will have a direct impact on the Artemis program.”

Jim Reuter, Associate administrator for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate in Washington

 

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The selected companies and technologies are:

 

  • Pioneer Astronautics of Lakewood, Colorado, will build and demonstrate hardware to produce oxygen and steel from lunar regolith, or soil. The technology would support sustainable lunar operations such as manufacturing using resources already on the Moon, also known as in-situ resource utilization.
  • Fibertek of Herndon, Virginia, will advance optical communications technologies for small spacecraft around the Moon and beyond. The system could establish high bandwidth communications in the vicinity of the Moon to relay vast amounts of data from lunar landers to Earth.
  • Qualtech Systems of Rocky Hill, Connecticut, will mature autonomous systems capable of continuously monitoring and providing fault and health management for spacecraft such as Gateway, a future outpost around the Moon, whether there are astronauts aboard or not. Other potential exploration applications include space vehicles, surface systems, habitats, and rovers.
  • Protoinnovations of Pittsburgh will advance traction control and improve the driving ability of robotic and crewed rovers in unknown and highly variable terrain on the Moon.