NASA has selected 3 companies to develop a lunar rover that Artemis astronauts will ride around the satellite.

Three companies are vying to build NASA’s next lunar rover for manned missions planned for later this decade.

 

Texas-based Intuitive Machines, which landed a robot near the moon’s south pole in February, Colorado-based Lunar Outpost and California-based Venturi Astrolab were tasked with developing the design in a contract with a total maximum potential value of $4.6 billion.

 

According to NASA’s latest budget request, the US space agency plans to award one of the three companies a “demonstration order” to test their lunar vehicle (LTV) on the lunar surface before the arrival of the crew of the Artemis 5 mission, which is scheduled for 2030.

 

We are building the capabilities needed for longer-term exploration and presence on the Moon. I love imagining the views and landscapes that LTV will allow us to see from the surface of the Moon.

 

— Jacob Bleacher, NASA Chief Scientist for Exploration.

 

Although the contracts have gone to relatively new companies, they are partnering with more established players in the aerospace industry. Intuitive Machines said it has secured an initial $30 million to advance its prototype, called the Reusable Autonomous Crewed Exploration Rover (RACER), with partners including AVL, Boeing, Michelin and Northrop Grumman.

 

Astrolab said its contract could be worth up to $1.9 billion, although it did not mention how much it initially received for its Flexible Logistics and Exploration (FLEX) rover, which it is developing with Axiom Space and Odyssey Space Research. The initial design of this rover was unveiled in 2022.

 

The FLEX rover is designed to carry two space-suited astronauts, support scientific research with a robotic arm, perform logistics tasks and withstand extreme temperatures at the lunar south pole.

Lunar Outpost is working with Lockheed Martin, General Motors, Goodyear and MDA Space as part of the “Lunar Dawn” team on the Lunar Dawn LTV rover.

 

We’re leveraging cutting-edge technology and the strengths of the automotive industry to create a true SUV capable of allowing us to live and work on the surface of the Moon.

 

— CEO of the company, Justin Cyrus.

 

Lunar Outpost plans to send an uncrewed mini-rover to the Moon later this year as part of Intuitive Machines’ next lander mission.

 

NASA has said it will buy services from companies rather than acquire their equipment, a contracting model the agency has increasingly favored to lower costs and boost the broader space economy. Ultimately, the chosen company may also have its own private sector clients.

 

The first crewed mission, Artemis 3, is expected to land in 2026, although many believe that timeline is too optimistic. China also plans to send a crew to the Moon by 2030 as the new space race gains momentum.

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