NASA Terminates Contract with Orbit Beyond for Commercial Robotic Lunar Lander Delivery

 

Orbit Beyond of Edison,New Jersey, had proposed to fly as many as four payloads to a lava plain in one of the Moon’s craters under the NASA CLPS commercial lunar lander program until
contract was terminated on July 29, 2019. Credits: Orbit Beyond

Ken Kremer — SpaceUpClose.com & RocketSTEM – 30 July 2019

CAPE CANAVERAL, FL –  Effective immediately NASA has “terminated” theagency’s nearly $100 million contract with ‘Orbit Beyond’ to provide payload delivery services to the Moon’s surface  on their commercial lunar lander – which had been targeted for later 2020.

NASA announced the Orbit Beyond contract termination in a statement issued Monday, July 29 and made at the request of Orbit Beyond – to be released from the NASA task order when they encountered “internal corporate challenges that will prevent the timely completion of its awarded task order.”


The swift turnabout in fortune and resultant contract termination comes less than two months after Orbit Beyond of Edison, NJ, was selected on May 31 as one of three private partners to provide relatively rapid an cost effective commercial payload delivery services to the Moon’s surface for a few dozen NASA science and technology experiments and instruments – as
part of
NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) contract. 


CLPS goal is to help support and advance NASA’s Artemis human lunar landing program #Moon2024 to return American astronauts to the lunar surface by 2024 – safely, economically and swiftly. 

Since the CLPS commercial lunar landing program represents a completely new way of
doing business and was done to significantly speed up the normal procurement
and development process NASA officials knew from the start it would be challenging
and therefore selected multiple providers in case one or more stumbled – as has
now happened.

“We know that CLPS missions are going to be challenging for various reasons, and they
may not always succeed,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, head of the agency’s Science
Mission Directorate in Washington, in a statement.



“We’re willing to accept some risk in order to get back to the Moon quickly, with commercial partners, and do exciting science and technology development with broad applications.”

Commercial landers will carry NASA-provided science and technology payloads to the lunar surface, paving the way for NASA astronauts to land on the Moon by 2024.  Credits: NASA
Orbit Beyond had been first in line of the three companies – with plans for their commercial lunar landing as soon as September 2020 with as many as four payloads to the lava plains of Mare Imbrium. 


Their Z-01 lander was to launch as a secondary payload on a SpaceX Falcon 9 – but had not yet secured full development and manufacturing funding as of May 31.


“While the first three companies selected to carry payloads to the Moon were announced in May, one of them, Orbit Beyond, Inc., has informed NASA of internal corporate challenges that will prevent the timely completion of its awarded task order. As a result, Orbit Beyond requested to be released from the task order agreement. NASA made a contract administration decision to comply with OBI’s request and, as a result, terminated the task order effective July 28, 2019 on terms mutually agreeable to both parties. Orbit Beyond remains a CLPS contract awardee and may be eligible to compete for future CLPS opportunities,” NASA officials explained. 


NASA says that the CLPS contracts with the other two awardees are unaffected – namely
with
Intuitive Machines and Astrobotic.


Each of the 3 private landers had been tasked to carry multiple science and technology payloads supplied and selected by NASA. 


Those other two companies are targeting launches in June and July 2021. Intuitive Machines will launch their Nova-C lander on a Falcon 9. The launcher for the Astrobotic Peregrine lander
is yet to be determined.   



“NASA’s selections of the two other vendors (Astrobotic and Intuitive Machines) are not impacted by this decision. NASA is still on track to having our first science payloads delivered to the lunar
surface in 2021. Astrobiotic has proposed to fly as many as 14 payloads to Lacus Mortis, a large crater on the near side of the Moon, by July 2021. Intuitive Machines has proposed to fly as many as five payloads for NASA to Oceanus Procellarum, a scientifically intriguing dark spot on the Moon, by July 2021,” said NASA.



Orbit Beyond had received the largest contract award at $97 million and can still compete for
other NASA lunar contracts “
for future CLPS opportunities.” 


But their lander was baswd on prior work by TeamIndus of India and had drawn scrutiny since the NASA contract specifically states the lander must be built in the US. 


Here are the selections as originally outlined by NASA on May 31 including the contract amounts, landing sites and dates:


· Astrobotic of Pittsburgh has been awarded $79.5 million and has proposed to fly as many as 14 payloads to Lacus Mortis, a large crater on the near side of the Moon, by July 2021. 


·  Intuitive Machines of Houston has been awarded $77 million. The company has proposed to fly as many as five payloads to Oceanus Procellarum, a scientifically intriguing dark spot
on the Moon, by July 2021. 



· Orbit Beyond of Edison, New Jersey, has been awarded $97 million and has proposed to fly as many as four payloads to Mare Imbrium, a lava plain in one of the Moon’s craters, by September 2020. 


Watch for Ken’s continuing onsite coverage of NASA, SpaceX, ULA, Boeing, Lockheed Martin,
Northrop Grumman and more space and mission reports direct from the Kennedy
Space Center, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida and Wallops Flight
Facility, Virginia.



Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news: www.kenkremer.com –www.spaceupclose.com – twitter
@ken_kremer – email: ken at kenkremer.com



Dr. Kremer is a research scientist and journalist based in the KSC area, active in outreach and interviewed regularly on TV and radio about space topics.
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Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events

Ken Kremer

Watch for Ken’s continuing onsite coverage of NASA, SpaceX, ULA, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and more space and mission reports direct from Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Stay tuned here for Ken's continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news. Dr. Kremer is a research scientist and journalist based in the KSC area, active in outreach and interviewed regularly on TV and radio about space topics. Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events.

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