NASA JSC Receives Griffin Lunar Lander Model for Rover Testing

Astrobotic's Griffin lunar lander

NASA will test their VIPER rover for compatibility with Astrobotic’s Griffin lunar lander.

After being transported more than 1,300 miles, Astrobotic’s Griffin Lander Analog Model (GLAM) arrived at NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC) early this month. This model is an analog prototype of the Griffin lander that will deliver NASA’s Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) to the Moon in 2023.

Astrobotic designed and constructed the GLAM at their “Moon Base” headquarters in Pittsburgh, PA. NASA JSC will use a VIPER prototype to test drive down the GLAM’s ramps, ensuring the rover can easily maneuver across the ramp’s angles and surfaces.  GLAM is the first full-scale prototype that will endure hands-on hardware evaluations at NASA JSC. The model includes ramp mechanisms and interfaces that will support early joint integration and egress activities between Griffin and VIPER. 

“Having a full-scale prototype of the Griffin lander and ramp mechanisms enables our team to work closely with NASA to optimize egress operations and the ramp design,” says Daniel Gillies, Mission Director for Griffin Mission One, “We are already incorporating lessons learned during GLAM’s build into our final design.”

Over the next few months, the Astrobotic and NASA teams will evaluate different ramp geometries and wheel engagement features between GLAM and a VIPER model to determine the optimal configuration for a safe VIPER egress on the lunar surface. These sorts of tests between spacecraft models are vital in yielding the highest probability of mission success.

GLAM is the first in a series of hardware prototypes being developed for Astrobotic’s Griffin Mission One. Within the year, the Griffin structural test model will begin assembly, undergo qualification testing, and take part in a joint test campaign with NASA that will verify the final ramp design and egress operations for the VIPER rover. Components for the Griffin flight model lander are already on order and assembly will follow the completion of qualification towards the end of this year.  

Astrobotic employees Pete Frye and Lauren Whitehouse assemble the Griffin Lander Analog Model.
Pictured: Griffin Lander Analog Model. with ramps deployed.