VIPER Lunar Rover Procurement Postponed by NASA

VIPER Lunar Rover Procurement Postponed by NASA

Formally announced by NASA in October 2019, the VIPER was discussed by agency officials at science meetings earlier the same year. The VIPER is similar to a previous mission named Resource Prospector canceled in 2018

FREMONT, CA: NASA has decided to postpone a task order part of the commercial lunar lander program for the delivery of the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, or VIPER. The rover was scheduled for use at the south pole of the moon, and the decision has been welcomed quietly by some lander companies. NASA has taken the decision based on feedback from a workshop discussion the agency had with companies who are part of the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program and thus eligible to bid on task orders. According to NASA spokesperson Grey Hautaluoma, NASA wanted to take more time to incorporate those comments, reflecting the complexity of the VIPER delivery.

Formally announced by NASA in October 2019, the VIPER was discussed by agency officials at science meetings earlier the same year. The VIPER is very similar to a previous mission named Resource Prospector canceled in 2018. The rover has been designed to probe permanently shadowed regions of craters near the South Pole to characterize water ice believed to exist there.

NASA decided to move quickly through the CLPS program to identify a lander to deliver the VIPER to the moon. However, the USD 250 million rover is not scheduled for launch until 2022. While the news to postpone the VIPER task order has been lurking for some time now, there is no clarity on why the decision was taken or the duration of the delay.

With the VIPER mission on hold, NASA has shifted its focus towards a separate task order for smaller science payloads, similar to the ones awarded in May 2019 to Astrobotic and Intuitive Machines. "We did not want to delay the release of the next standard delivery task order to allow the CLPS providers to propose on the next delivery task order request," said Hautaluoma. According to Steve Clarke, deputy associate administrator for exploration in NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, the next non-VIPER task order designated 19C is set to be released sometime in January. Unlike the two awarded last year, 19C would be used for the exploration of Polar regions.

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