NASA is asking companies in its commercial lunar landing services program to bid on delivering a NASA rover whose launch has been slightly delayed
FREMONT, CA: Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER), which was formally announced by NASA in October 2019, will examine regions at either the North or South Pole of the moon that is thought to contain deposits of water ice. Such deposits if confirmed, could become a crucial resource for human missions. The mission was scheduled to launch by December 2022.
NASA asked the 14 companies that are part of the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program to bid on a task order for sending the VIPER mission to the lunar poles.
VIPER is still in its early stages of development, and the mission is scheduled for a preliminary design review in April. The total cost of the mission is approximately $250 million.
The agency had been preparing to issue a task order late last year for VIPER, but then put it on hold. In early January, the agency decided to delay the task order based on feedback from a workshop discussion the agency had with CLPS providers because of the complexity of the VIPER delivery. The large size of VIPER, described by NASA as similar to a golf cart, means only a small fraction of the CLPS companies will have landers large enough to accommodate it.
NASA instead issued a task order in January for a different CLPS mission that would deliver eight science payloads to the moon in 2022, similar to missions NASA awarded last year to Astrobotic and Intuitive Machines for 2021 lander missions.
However, NASA withdrew that task order after a week, without explanation. NASA reissued the task order in early February after it reviewed the requirements for the mission.
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