NASA on Friday announced a $79.5 million contract with a Pittsburgh-based company to deliver payloads of scientific and high-tech research equipment to the moon in 2021.
Astrobotic Technology Inc., founded a decade ago out of Carnegie Mellon University and headquartered at 25th and Liberty in the Strip District, will deliver 14 payloads under the NASA contract.
The announcement Friday doubled the number of payloads in place for Astrobotic’s first launch of the its Peregrine lunar lander. The company hopes to launch the lander in June 2021 and land it on the moon in July that year.
The company said it is expanding its Pittsburgh operations, adding dozens of jobs.
“Today is a historic day for Astrobotic and the commercial lunar market,” Astrobotic CEO John Thornton said in a statement. “It is an awe-inspiring responsibility to be charged with delivering NASA’s payloads alongside our existing manifest of customers.”
Companies and organizations have partnered with the Astrobotic to send to the moon scientific equipment, messages from children around the world, mementos, time capsules, educations materials, rovers and a digital copy of the entire Wikipedia.
NASA equipment headed to the moon includes instruments to conduct new lunar science, pinpoint lander position, measure lunar radiation environment, assess how lander and astronaut activity affects the moon, and assist with navigation precision, according to the space agency.
Astrobotic would deliver equipment to Lacus Mortis, a large crater on the near side of the moon.
Astrobotic has yet to land on the moon. The robotic craft is much smaller than the landers that carried Apollo astronauts. NASA’s last moon mission was Apollo 17 in December 1972.
NASA also awarded a $77 million contract to Intuitive Machines of Houston for up to five lunar payloads and a $97 million contract to Orbit Beyond of Edison, N.J., for up to four payloads.