Spaceflight Insider

Kit Grabbe: Astrobotic on path to affordable commercial access to the Moon

Astrobotic's Griffin lunar lander. Photo Credit: Astrobotic

Astrobotic’s Griffin lunar lander. Photo Credit: Astrobotic

Pittsburgh-based space robotics company Astrobotic Technology, Inc., is accelerating its work on the 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.

An artist's rendering of the Peregrine lander with a cuberover. Image Credit: Astrobotic

An artist’s rendering of the Peregrine lander with a CubeRover. Image Credit: Astrobotic

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 pounds (275 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 pounds (265 kilograms) to the Moon, its first mission, which will pave the way for future regular flights, will take about 77 pounds (35 kilograms) to the lunar surface.

Astrobotic underlines that the structure of its lander is stout, stiff, and simple, which allows for easy payload integration. The spacecraft will be equipped with an autonomous landing system, enabling a touchdown 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 joined the company to make sure 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,” Grabbe told Astrowatch.net. “I also help coordinate between subsystems to serve them in achieving a successful and closed design.”

Grabbe has over 24 years of experience developing space missions. He was involved in the development of more than 13 missions for NASA, the Department of Defense, and commercial companies. The list of spacecraft that he has 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.

Grabbe said: “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 Facility, I performed a formal deep dive review 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 also said that he is confident that the Peregrine lander will be a success, despite the difficulty of the mission and inevitable challenges it must face. He said that Astrobotic is up to the challenge of achieving an impressive feat on a modest budget compared to traditional government-funded space programs.

In Grabbe’s opinion, the firm has assembled a team of significant expertise, developed credible plans, and is backed with the support of the world’s leading aerospace companies as well as NASA. Therefore, he claims Astrobotic, as a private commercial company, has the momentum and support that it needs to make its lunar delivery service a reality.

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

 

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Tomasz Nowakowski is the owner of Astro Watch, one of the premier astronomy and science-related blogs on the internet. Nowakowski reached out to SpaceFlight Insider in an effort to have the two space-related websites collaborate. Nowakowski's generous offer was gratefully received with the two organizations now working to better relay important developments as they pertain to space exploration.

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