Fleet Space Technologies’ The device will land on the moon in 2026 after the South Australia-based company entered into a launch agreement with a Texas-based orbital vehicle operator.
The Australian company’s spider-shaped instrument will capture seismic readings after traveling with NASA and European Space Agency payloads, marking the first time Australian seismic technology has been to the Moon.
The fleet’s seismic payload for Interplanetary Discovery, Exploration and Research (SPIDER) technology will fly aboard Firefly Aerospace’s Blue Ghost lunar lander in what will be the US company’s second lunar mission and the fleet’s first.
Fleet was awarded a $4 million grant through the Australian Space Agency’s Moon to Mars Demonstrator Program in June to support Spider’s development and prepare it to collect seismic data from the Moon’s south pole.
The Moon mission will focus on examining the mineral profile of the surface and searching for deposits of water ice. The data will be helpful in determining whether there are sufficient resources to support lunar infrastructure or further exploration of the Moon’s surface.
According to Fleet, the Spyder takes advantage of advances in ambient noise tomography (ANT). The instrument will “record natural seismic waves in the lunar subsurface for 14 consecutive days”. The seismic station can operate on just one-watt of power.
When the Spider payload is delivered, it will be tethered to Firefly’s Blue Ghost lunar lander which will provide continuous power and communications, enabling data collection and transmission.
The Blue Ghost lunar lander will be launched into lunar orbit by Firefly’s Elytra orbital vehicle along with the European Space Agency’s Lunar Pathfinder satellite. Blue Ghost will then land on the far side of the moon to deploy Spider with NASA’s LUCE-Knight radio telescope.
Firefly said the mission is facilitated by NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services Initiative. The firm received a US$112 million contract from NASA to deliver research payloads in March and has since completed preliminary design reviews for missions to the far side of the Moon.
Fleet co-founder and chief exploration officer Matt Pearson said Fleet’s technology would be the first Australian technology to land on the lunar surface.
“Humanity is on the verge of making tremendous advances in our scientific understanding of lunar regolith – [material layers beneath the surface] – By using advanced seismic technologies to obtain deep information about the Moon’s subsurface. Technologies like Spider will become key enablers in our long-term efforts to sustain life on the Moon and beyond, Mr Pearson said.
“The Fleet is honored to contribute our groundbreaking passive seismic technology to advance research that will enable the development of sustainable infrastructure capable of supporting human life on other worlds.
“As the first Australian seismic technology to land on the Moon, we are proud to take the first step of Australia’s Seven Sisters mission to explore the Moon and Mars in line with NASA’s Artemis program.”
The Seven Sisters mission is an initiative led by the Space Industries Association of Australia that was established to complement the US-led Artemis Moon-to-Mars mission.
Sensors and Robotics Company Expect improved navigation It will be the first Australian company to reach the Moon, with its technology expected to arrive on NASA Artemis orbital missions in 2024 and lunar landers by 2025.
Fleet raised $50 million in May through an oversubscribed funding round led by venture capital firm and existing investor Blackbird Ventures. They were joined by Mike Cannon-Brooke’s Grok Ventures, Alumni Ventures, superannuation fund HostPlus, TelstraSuper, Bondi Partners/The 1941 Fund and Pavilion Capital.
The fleet also has a $6.4 million contract with Australia’s Defense Space Command to deliver its commercial satellites for use in the development and demonstration of a Low Earth Orbit satellite communications system. This was the firm’s first defense contract.
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