Astrobotic is building a massive lunar tech hub in Pittsburgh

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Astrobotic is building a lunar tech hub in Pittsburgh.
Image: Astrobotics

Returning to the moon is a challenging endeavor. That hasn’t deterred NASA from pursuing the goal. Instead, the space agency is partnering with a number of startups and established companies to develop the technologies it needs to bring the Artemis program to life.

One of those startups is Astrobotic Technology. Recently, it unveiled a massive new headquarters in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The 47,000-square-foot facility will serve as a sort of mission control for the startup’s work on NASA contracts and other upcoming projects.

According to a company press release, it is “the largest private facility in the world dedicated to lunar logistics.”

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Moon Base

Astrobotic has a lot of work ahead of it in the coming days. The startup has won more than a dozen contracts for its lunar-focused technology. Perhaps the most important is a $79.5 million deal it secured with NASA in May 2019. It tasks Astrobotic with building a remote-operated lunar lander called Peregrine.

The lander is scheduled to fly on a mission launching in July 2021. It will become the first American lander to touch down on the moon since the Apollo missions, says Gizmodo’s Alyse Stanley.

Of course, the Peregrine contract isn’t Astrobotic’s only one with NASA. The startup also secured a lucrative $199.5 million deal to bring the agency’s VIPER rover to the moon’s south pole in 2023. Once it arrives, the rover will search for water on the lunar surface.

Meanwhile, Astrobotic is also tasked with developing another remote-operated lunar lander for NASA called Griffin. Both of the landers will be manufactured at the new Pittsburgh facility. The startup says that the base will also manufacture its “rovers, autonomous space navigation systems, and other space technologies.”

Astrobotic CEO John Thornton says, “We grew from a staff of 18 to more than 100 employees, with two funded lander missions and a rover mission to the moon, and multiple contracts to develop exciting new space technologies.”

“It’s still surreal,” Thornton adds.

High-Tech Hangout

Astrobotic’s new headquarters is something that any space lover can appreciate. It’s also appealing to the engineering nerds out there. The base will house a number of manufacturing sectors, including a “clean room” and a “high bay” that will be used to assemble various spacecraft. It also plays home to the startup’s offices and labs.

In the coming days, Astrobotic plans to continue adding to the facility. It aims to add a rover test pit, a drone flying area, and more room for manufacturing. Given the number of contracts Astrobotic has ahead of it, the startup will need as much space as possible.

It’s worth noting that the top-of-the-line facility isn’t just for manufacturing. Throughout the duration of the Peregrine and Griffin missions, it will serve as an operating base for the landers. When Astrobotic expands to take on more remote-controlled missions in the future, the base will undoubtedly serve as a hub for those as well.

This is an exciting time for both Astrobotic and the space industry as a whole. There will be plenty of developments to track in the coming years, so stay tuned to The Burn-In for the latest news.

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