Sunday, June 4, 2017

Astrobotic on Path to More Affordable Commercial Access to the Moon

Astrobotic's Griffin lunar lander. Photo Credit: Astrobotic

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based space robotics company Astrobotic Technology, Inc. is accelerating the works on its Peregrine lander designed to deliver payloads to the Moon. The company has recently hired space veteran Kit Grabbe who will oversee the development of the Peregrine Lunar Lander system.

The car-sized Peregrine lander is 5.9 feet (1.8 meters) tall and has a diameter of 8.2 feet (2.5 meters). The vehicle weighs approximately 605 lbs. (274.5 kilograms) and can accommodate various types of payload for science, exploration and even marketing purposes. While the lander is capable of carrying up to 584 lbs. (265 kilograms) to the Moon, its first mission that will pave the way for future regular flights, will take about 77 lbs. (35 kilograms) to the lunar surface.

Astrobotic underlines that the structure of its lander is stout, stiff, and simple, what allows easy payload integration. The spacecraft will be equipped in an autolanding system enabling landing accuracy of about 328 feet (100 meters). According to the company, the lander’s design should secure precise and safe payload delivery to the lunar surface. Kit Grabbe joins the company to make sure that the development of the lander goes as planned in order to achieve these goals.

“As the Principal Systems Engineer at Astrobotic, I lead end-to-end design and performance of the Peregrine Lunar Lander. I also help coordinate between subsystems to serve them in achieving a successful and closed design,” Grabbe told

With over 24 years of experience in developing space missions, Grabbe is an invaluable asset to Astrobotic’s team. He was involved in the development of more than 13 missions for NASA, Department of Defense and commercial companies. The list of spacecraft he worked on includes GRAIL, Mars Odyssey, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, MAVEN, and Orion.

Grabbe’s expertise is in guidance navigation, and control (GN&C) system architecture and design, integration, and verification. This involves guiding the navigation development in areas such as hydraulic, and cryogenic valves, autopilot, and attitude profiles.

“I have also held roles in software development for the GN&C system on GRAIL. For spacecraft mission operations including Mars Odyssey, I held responsibility for the Attitude and Articulation Subsystem Control. At the NASA Independent Verification and Validation (IV&V) Facility, I performed a formal deep dive reviews of the GN&C flight software for the InSight mission to study the interior of Mars to help ensure mission success. Each of these experiences will ensure mission success and sustainability of the Peregrine Lunar Lander,” Grabbe said.

Grabbe is confident of Peregrine lander success, despite the difficulty of the mission and inevitable challenges it must face. He is convinced that Astrobotic up to the challenge to achieve an impressive feat on a modest budget compared to traditional government-funded space programs.

In Grabbe’s opinion, Astrobotic has assembled a team of significant expertise, developed credible plans, and is backed with support of the world’s leading aerospace companies including NASA. Therefore, he claims that as a private commercial company, Astrobotic has the momentum and support that will enable realization of lunar delivery service as reality.

“I am confident we have a credible path to affordable commercial access to the Moon,” Grabbe concluded.

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