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Lunar Outpost Delivers First Flight Model Rover in Record Time

Through agile development and cooperation, Lunar Outpost and Johns Hopkins APL will send a rover to the Moon to explore Reiner Gamma


07 August 2023


Lunar Outpost has delivered its first flight model rover, the Lunar Vertex Mobile Autonomous Prospecting Platform (MAPP), to the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, for integration and final testing. The event marks a major milestone for the company, a proof point of their commercial viability in the emerging cislunar economy, proving they’re capable of delivering a highly capable, cost-effective lunar rover in record time.

The Lunar Vertex rover (visible through the window) in a cleanroom at APL on April 5, 2023. Left to right: Will Ames (APL, the Lunar Vertex payload systems engineer), Ann Cox (APL, the Lunar Vertex project manager), AJ Gemer (Lunar Outpost Chief Technology Officer), and David Blewett (APL, Lunar Vertex Principal Investigator). Bunny-suited engineers Jason Jones (APL) and Van Wagner (Lunar Outpost) look on. Photo credit: APL and Lunar Outpost

 

Since July 2021, Lunar Outpost has been developing the Lunar Vertex MAPP rover for a 2024 NASA-funded science and exploration mission to the near-equatorial Reiner Gamma site, through the NASA Payloads and Research Investigations on the Surface of the Moon (PRISM) call for proposals. Reiner Gamma is the most famous example of a lunar swirl - a bright surface marking of unknown origin that twists across the lunar surface for hundreds of miles. Visible in Earth-based telescopes, Reiner Gamma has puzzled scientists for hundreds of years. Further, measurements from orbit during Apollo revealed that the Reiner Gamma swirl corresponds to an anomalous region of magnetized rocks, compounding the mystery.


The Lunar Vertex rover at Lunar Outpost prior to shipment to APL. The black cylinder on top is a mass model for the APL Vector Magnetometer–Rover (VMR). The VMR flight model instrument will be installed at APL. The rover's solar arrays are shown in their stowed (folded down) configuration. Once on the Moon, the solar arrays will be deployed to a horizontal position. Photo credit: Lunar Outpost.

 

The Lunar Vertex MAPP rover will carry a suite of science instruments consisting of a vector magnetometer developed by APL and a multispectral microscope, with the aim of testing hypotheses for the origin of swirls and the origin of the magnetic anomaly. The MAPP rover’s versatility lends itself to this mission with its high payload mass fraction, long drive distances, and ability to accommodate a wide range of instrument and environmental requirements.

 

The Lunar Vertex delivery to the Moon is supported by the NASA Planetary Mission Program Office as the first PRISM selection under the Artemis program, with the lander furnished by the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative. CLPS works with American companies to send science and technology payloads to the lunar surface aboard commercial landers. CLPS has opened up a new aperture – allowing aerospace companies and research institutions like APL to be more agile, deploy science instruments more quickly, and accelerate the development of both the commercial aerospace industry and planetary exploration.


NASA Administrator Bill Nelson views the Lunar Vertex rover at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, during a visit on June 9, 2023. Lunar Vertex Principal Investigator David Blewett (center) discusses the mission with (from left) APL Payload Systems Engineer Will Ames, APL Space Exploration Sector Head Bobby Braun, Nelson, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and APL Civil Space Mission Area Executive Jason Kalirai. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Lunar Outpost/Craig Weiman

 

David Blewett, the Lunar Vertex principal investigator at APL, said the Lunar Outpost and APL engineering teams will work together to integrate the magnetometer and microscope into the vehicle, followed by environmental testing. “Having the mobility provided by MAPP is key to accomplishing the science goals of the Lunar Vertex investigation,” he said. “We're looking forward to launch in 2024!”

 

AJ Gemer, Chief Technology Officer at Lunar Outpost, had this to say about the upcoming mission: “We are incredibly excited to be delivering our Flight Model MAPP Lunar Rover to APL, and supporting NASA lunar science and the Lunar Vertex mission. This new era of rapidly-deployable, cost-effective robotic lunar surface missions represents a landmark to both space science and exploration, and the development of the cislunar commercial space industry.”

 

The collaboration between APL and Lunar Outpost on the Lunar Vertex MAPP rover is an example of this new paradigm in space exploration where research and travel on other terrestrial bodies is more accessible than ever before. With more missions to the Moon, we’ll see more rapid advancements, greater mission potential, and exciting discoveries. It begs the question – what’s next?

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