Polar Moonshots are in a league of their own when it comes to the level of difficulty. In order to overcome this historically daunting challenge for the first-ever Griffin Mission transporting NASA’s VIPER rover to the Moon’s South Pole, NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services Program selectee Astrobotic is enlisting Agile Space Industries to help them go where no American spacecraft has gone before. Astrobotic’s Griffin Mission lander is relying on Attitude Control Thrusters (“ACT”s), from Agile to provide steering capabilities in the vacuum of space. Agile’s innovative custom propulsion solutions utilize 3D printing of exotic metal alloys to provide unprecedented performance, along with minimized mass and cost.
“This mission has a tremendous amount of innovation involved,” says Daniel Gillies, Astrobotic’s Griffin Mission One director. “It requires extremely mass efficient performance from the propulsion system, within a fixed budget and schedule. A custom-engineered thruster seemed inaccessible at first given these hard program constraints, but within a matter of weeks of issuing an RFP Agile designed, produced and demonstrated a hot-fire test of a subscale Griffin-optimized ACT. The level of commitment and investment in the project by Agile were key their selection as a propulsion provider for Griffin Mission One.”
The successor to that subscale ACT is Agile’s A110 thruster (pictured above), which is printed out of aerospace alloys that can withstand the temperatures and stresses from rapid bursts of combustion in vacuum, allowing Griffin to accurately navigate hundreds of thousands of miles through space before safely touching down precisely where intended. In order to provide assurance that the A110 can accomplish this feat, Agile diagnostically tests its thrusters in the company’s industry-leading test cell that simulates the harsh temperature and vacuum conditions of outer space.
“In an industry like aerospace, where new technology developments are expected to take years, the speed at which Agile develops propulsion solutions is opening up missions and opportunities that were previously unachievable” explains Jeffrey Max, Agile Space Industries co-founder & CEO. “The foundation for this unprecedented agility is our unique combination of propulsion engineering, additive manufacturing (3D alloy printing) and integrated testing facilities and expertise.”
“Agile’s successful hot-firings of the A110 in less than 10 weeks from contract is enabling Astrobotic to include actionable test data in our upcoming preliminary design review,” says Gillies. “These immediate development program results are proving the viability of Astrobotic’s innovative approaches to expedite NASA’s exploration of new destinations, facilitating the Agency’s missions of scientific discovery.”
Astrobotic is the Moon company and more. They develop advanced navigation, operation, and computing systems for spacecraft, and their fleet of lunar landers and rovers deliver payloads to the Moon for companies, governments, universities, non-profits, and individuals. To date, they have two fully funded lunar lander missions on the books, more than 50 prior and ongoing NASA and commercial technology contracts, and a corporate sponsorship with DHL. Astrobotic was founded in 2007 and is headquartered in Pittsburgh, PA.
About Agile Space Industries:
Agile provides mission-optimized propulsion solutions on fast space timelines by closely coupling rapid prototyping with diagnostic testing and analysis. Since its founding in 2009, the Durango, CO based company has been the team of propulsion experts repeatably trusted by NASA, the DoD, and their Prime contractors when undertaking advanced propulsion technology developments.