NASA delays Artemis Lunar Rover award by four months

WASHINGTON — NASA has delayed awarding contracts to build a lunar rover for future Artemis missions by four months, raising concerns in the industry about the future of the program.

NASA had planned to award the Lunar Terrain Vehicle (LTV) service contract in November. In a final request for proposals issued May 26, NASA said it would make one or more awards on November 27. At the time it issued the request for proposals, the proposals were due on July 13, and the date was later changed to July 26.

However, in recent weeks NASA moved the expected contract award to March 31, 2024. That change was made that day. A shopping websiteThe reason for the four-month delay was not disclosed.

A NASA spokesman said on Oct. 30 that the agency delayed the award „to allow additional time to evaluate the proposals,” but did not elaborate.

Industry officials say the delay may be related to uncertainty about NASA’s budget for the 2024 fiscal year. LTV will be available for the initiative in the coming year, including whether they can fund more than one award.

Several companies, including startups such as Astrolabe and Intuitive Machines and established companies such as Leidos, Lockheed Martin and Teledyne Brown, have announced their plans to compete for the LTV contract. This led to unique partnerships such as Lockheed working with automaker General Motors and Leidos partnering with auto racing giant NASCAR. NASA expects to begin deploying the rovers with the Artemis 5 mission by the end of the decade.

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As with some other components of Artemis, NASA plans to purchase the LTV lunar rover as a service, allowing companies to own the rovers and use them for other applications when not needed for Artemis missions. In other service contracts, NASA has selected at least two providers, but for LTV only NASA will select one or more providers.

NASA and some companies have argued that a one-service approach saves the agency money while forcing companies to try innovative approaches and seek out non-NASA customers. However, that support is not universal.

Former NASA administrator Mike Griffin, speaking Oct. 27 at the American Astronautical Association’s Von Braun Space Exploration Symposium, discussed „all the government’s regrettable square-wave flipping of space, if it’s not commercial, why do we care?”

Griffin did not specifically mention LTV or other programs that took a service approach, but he argued that the shift to commercial approaches deprives government agencies of doing „a certain amount of work.” Other projects.

He added that companies favoring commercial approaches do so because they want government money without the rules and regulations involved in traditional government contracting approaches. „Until we get back to a proper definition of business, we’re going to be kidding ourselves.”

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