After testing its FLEX rover in the California desert last year, Astrolab is now making plans to transport the vehicle to the Moon. The astronautics startup signed an agreement with SpaceX to deliver Astrolab’s first lunar rover to the Moon on a future Starship mission.
On Friday, Astrolab announced that SpaceX would use its Starship launch and landing system to transport the Flexible Logistics and Exploration (FLEX) rover to the surface of the Moon by mid-2026. The rover will be carrying around 2,200 pounds of customer cargo (1,000 kilograms) to the Moon, the details of which will be announced soon.
Astrolab, in partnership with Venturi Group, designed a fleet of its FLEX rovers with one goal in mind: supporting a sustainable presence of humans on the Moon. The rovers are designed to deliver payloads to the Moon, as well as transport two astronauts across the lunar surface. FLEX is also designed with a robotic arm and science mast similar to NASA’s Mars rovers and also an antenna to provide constant high-bandwidth communication with Earth. The idea is for the FLEX rover fleet to also one day go to Mars and support a human presence on the Red Planet, according to Astrolab.
“Our Astrolab team has created much more than a rover for use on the Moon or Mars,” Jaret Matthews, founder and CEO of Astrolab, said in the company’s statement. “We expect that that this approach will help establish a permanent lunar outpost on the Moon at a lower cost and in less time than previously envisioned.”
The California-based startup is hoping to land a contract from NASA as part of the space agency’s Artemis program to the Moon. In order to support astronauts’ sustainable presence on and around the Moon, NASA is looking for ideas for a Lunar Terrain Vehicle concept. The space agency is expected to issue a call for proposals in May.
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SpaceX’s Starship is also incorporated in NASA’s lunar program as per a $2.89 billion contract to land astronauts on the Moon by late 2025 as part of the Artemis 3 mission. But Starship is yet to reach orbit, with its inaugural flight suffering numerous delays. Although recent media reports suggest Starship could fly for the first time in April, but we have learned not to take those claims to heart.
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