Astrobotic Awarded NASA JPL Commercial Service Studies to Enable Future Missions to Mars

Image of Mars

Pittsburgh, PA – May 16, 2024 – Astrobotic has been selected by NASA’s Mars Exploration Program for two concept studies of commercial services to support lower-cost, higher-frequency missions to Mars. The company will examine how potential commercial services, both payload delivery and surface imaging, could enable future science missions to the Red Planet. 

The two studies — one for large payload delivery and hosting services, and the other for Mars surface-imaging services — will analyze how Astrobotic can adapt its existing spacecraft systems to support frequent, lower-cost missions to Mars over the next 20 years. 

Astrobotic is partnering with Arizona State University to complete a large payload delivery and hosting services study that will focus on the adaptation of the company’s Griffin-class lunar lander to deliver payloads to the Red Planet from orbit. The study of Mars surface-imaging services, a collaboration between Astrobotic, Arizona State University, and Malin Space Science Systems, will focus on electro-optical imaging instrument concepts aimed at mapping of the Martian surface. 

“Astrobotic’s mission has always been to make space accessible to the world, so these studies toward Mars are a natural next step for us,” said John Thornton, Astrobotic’s CEO. “We will investigate modifying our current lunar capabilities for use around Mars and examine how our systems can further support NASA’s Moon to Mars Strategy.” 

“Arizona State University faculty, staff, and students are excited to leverage our significant scientific, engineering, and operational experience in NASA robotic Mars missions to brainstorm with the Astrobotic and Malin Space Science Systems teams on this new next-gen commercial imaging services study,” said Jim Bell, Professor in ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration, Director of ASU’s NewSpace Initiative, and the leader or deputy leader on camera teams for NASA’s Spirit, Opportunity, Curiosity, and Perseverance Mars rovers. “Innovative, lower-cost, but still scientifically robust cameras and other instruments have the potential to substantially advance the pace of exploration and discovery on the Red Planet.”   

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California manages the Mars Exploration Program on behalf of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The 12-week studies are planned to conclude in August, and a study summary will be released later in the year.