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Main article: Robotics

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Five reasons you (really) don’t want to miss TechCrunch’s AI and Robotics show on March 3

00:00 | 29 January

TechCrunch’s fourth Robotics and AI show is coming up on March 3 at UC Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall. If past experience is any guide, the show is sure to draw a big crowd (cheap student rates here!) but there’s still time to grab a pass. If you’re wondering why you want to take a day out to catch a full day of interviews and audience Q&A with the world’s top robotics and AI experts, read on.  

It’s the software / AI,  stupid. So said (in so many words) the legendary surgical robotics founder Dr. Frederic Moll at Disrupt SF last year. And this year’s agenda captures that reality from many angles. UC Berkeley’s Stuart Russell will discuss his provocative book on AI – Human Compatible, and the deeply important topic of AI ‘explainability’ will be front and center with SRI’s Karen Myers, Fiddler Labs’ Krishna Gade and UC Berkeley’s Trevor Darrell. Then there is the business of developing and sustaining robots, whether at startups, which is where Freedom Robotics’ Joshua Wilson comes in, or at large enterprises, with Vicarious’ D. Scott Phoenix

Robotics founders have more fun. That’s why we have a panel of the three top founders in agricultural robotics as well as another three on construction robotics and two on human assistive robotics, plus a pitch competition featuring five additional founders, each carefully chosen from a large pool of applicants. We’ll also bring a few of those founders back for a separate audience Q&A. Meet tomorrow’s big names in robotics today!

Big companies do robots too. No one knows that better Amazon’s top roboticist, Tye Brady, who already presides over 100,000 warehouse robots. The editors are eager to hear what’s next in Amazon’s ambitious automation plans. Toyota’s robotics’ focus is mobility,  and Toyota Research Institute’s TRI-AD CEO James Kuffner and TRI VP of Robotics Max Bajracharya will discuss projects they plan to roll out at the Tokyo Olympics.  And if that’s not enough, Maxar Technologies’ Lucy Condakchian will show off Maxar’s robotic arm that will travel to Mars aboard the fifth Mars Rover mission later this year. 

Robotics VCs are chill (once you get to know them). We will have three check writers on stage for the big talk about where they see the best investments emerging –  Eric Migicovsky (Y Combinator), Kelly Chen (DCVC) and Dror Berman (Innovation Endeavors) plus two separate audience Q&A sessions, one with notable robotics / AI VCs, Rob Coneybeer (Shasta) and  Aaron Jacobson (NEA) and a second with corporate VCs Quinn Li (Qualcomm) and
Kass Dawson (Softbank).

Network, recruit, repeat. Last year there were 1500 attendees at this show, and they were the cream of the robotics world – founders, investors, technologists, executives and engineering students. Expect nothing less this year. TechCrunch’s CrunchMatch mobile app makes meeting folks super easy, plus the event is in UC Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall – a sunny happy place that naturally spins up great conversations. Don’t miss out.

Our Early Bird Ticket sale ends this Friday – book your tickets today and save $150 before prices increase. Students can book a super-discounted ticket for just $50 right here.

 


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72 hours left to save $150 on tickets to TC Sessions: Robotics + AI 2020

19:45 | 28 January

We’re counting the days (35 to be precise) until TC Sessions: Robotics + AI 2020 takes place on March 3 in Berkeley, Calif. But we’re also counting the days that you can save on the price of admission. The early-bird pricing ends in just three days on January 31. Buy your ticket right here before that bird flies south, and you’ll save $150.

This single-day conference features interviews, panel discussions, Q&As and demos with the leaders, founders and investors focused on the future of robotics and AI. TechCrunch editors will interview the people making it happen, explore the promise, expose the hype and address the challenges of these revolutionary industries.

The lineup, as impressive as ever, also includes workshops and demos because who doesn’t want to see robots in action? From autonomous cars and assistive robotics to advances in agriculture and outer space, our conference agenda covers the leading edges of the complex and exciting world of robots and AI.

Here’s a taste of what we’re serving.

Engineering for the Red Planet: Maxar Technologies has been involved with U.S. space efforts for decades and is about to send its sixth robotic arm to Mars aboard NASA’s Mars 2020 rover. Lucy Condakchian, general manager of robotics at Maxar, will speak to the difficulty and exhilaration of designing robotics for use in the harsh environments of space and other planets.

Investing in Robotics and AI — Lessons from the Industry’s VCs: Leading investors will discuss the rising tide of venture capital funding in robotics and AI. Dror Berman, founding partner at Innovation Endeavors; Kelly Chen, partner at Data Collective DCVC; and Eric Migicovsky, general partner at Y Combinator, bring a combination of early stage investing and corporate venture capital expertise, sharing a fondness for the wild world of robotics and AI investing.

We’ve added a new, exciting element this year. It’s Pitch Night, a sort of mini Startup Battlefield. The night before the conference, 10 teams will pitch to an audience of VCs and other influencers at a private event. Judges will choose five finalists, and those teams will pitch again from the Main Stage at the conference. We’re taking applications until February 1, so apply right here. It’s free, and a great way to showcase your startup to the people who can supercharge your startup dreams.

Don’t miss your chance to learn from, share with and pitch to the brightest minds, makers, investors and researchers in robotics and AI. And don’t miss out on serious savings. Buy an early-bird ticket to TC Sessions: Robotics + AI 2020 — before prices go up on January 31 — and you’ll keep $150 in your wallet.

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at TC Sessions: Robotics & AI 2020? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

 


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Boston Dynamics’ new and former CEOs discuss future of the robotics pioneer

20:30 | 27 January

After more than a quarter century, Boston Dynamics has a new CEO. The transition (which quietly occurred late last year), saw founder Marc Raibert step aside to become chairman, as longtime employee Rob Playter took the reins. 

The key personnel change comes at a pivotal time for the company, which recently began the process of commercializing a pair of its extremely advanced robots. Along with the C-level shift, Boston Dynamics also announced that it’s making the SDK for its Spot robot available to all via GitHub. Boston Dynamics has already begun producing commercial versions of its quadrupedal robot. Among its earliest adopters is former Mythbuster Adam Savage, who is set to release a series of videos featuring the machine.

Ahead of making all of these announcements official, Raibert and Playter sat down with TechCrunch to discuss their new roles and what the future may hold for Boston Dynamics.

 


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4 days left to save $150 on tickets to TC Sessions: Robotics + AI 2020

18:30 | 27 January

The countdown to savings continues, and you have just four days left to score the best price on tickets to TC Sessions: Robotics + AI 2020. Join 1,500 of the brightest minds and innovators in robotics and machine learning — technologists, founders, investors, engineers and researchers. Buy an early-bird ticket now before prices go up on January 31, and you’ll keep $150 in your pocket. Why spend more when you don’t have to?

Get ready for a full day focused on the future of two technologies with the potential to change everything about the way we live. We have an outstanding line up of speakers, interviews and panel discussions covering a range of topics. And of course, plenty of demos, too.

We won’t just parrot the hype, either. Our editors will ask the hard questions, and the conference agenda includes discussions about the ethics and ramifications inherent with these potent technologies.

Here’s a just sample of what’s on tap.

  • Saving Humanity from AI: Stuart Russell, a UC Berkeley professor and AI authority argues in his acclaimed new book, “Human Compatible,” that AI will doom humanity unless technologists fundamentally reform how they build AI algorithms.
  • Bringing Robots to Life: This summer’s Tokyo Olympics will be a huge proving ground for TRI-AD (Toyota Research Institute – Advanced Development). TRI-AD’s CEO James Kuffner and its VP of Robotics, Max Bajracharya will join us to discuss the department’s plans for assistive robots and self-driving cars.

There’s plenty more waiting for you, including the finalists of our first Pitch Night. This group of intrepid robotics and AI startup founders made the cut (10 teams will pitch the night before the conference at a private event). The finalists will pitch again at the conference from the Main Stage. Think your startup has what it takes to throw down in a pitch-off? We’re accepting applications until February 1. Talk about a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for focused exposure — apply right here today!

TC Sessions: Robotics + AI 2020 draws the top people in the industry, which makes it prime networking territory. Whether you’re looking for funding, hunting for the perfect startup to add to your portfolio or searching for the next generation of engineers, this is where you need to be. Come work it to your advantage.

TC Sessions: Robotics + AI 2020 takes place in Berkeley on March 3, and we’ve packed a lot of value and opportunity into one day. Make the most of it and remember, you’ll save $150 if you buy an early bird ticket before prices go up on January 31.

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at TC Sessions: Robotics & AI 2020? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

 

 


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Early bird savings end next Friday on tickets to Robotics+AI 2020

19:30 | 24 January

TechCrunch Sessions: Robotics+AI 2020 is gearing up to be one amazing show. This annual day-long event draws the brightest minds and makers from these two industries — 1,500 attendees last year alone. And if you really want to make 2020 a game-changing year, grab yourself an early-bird ticket and save $150 on tickets before prices go up after January 31.

Not convinced yet? Check out some agenda highlights featuring some of today’s leading robotics and AI leaders.

Saving Humanity from AI with Stuart Russell (UC Berkeley)
The UC Berkeley professor and AI authority argues in his acclaimed new book, “Human Compatible,” that AI will doom humanity unless technologists fundamentally reform how they build AI algorithms.

Automating Amazon with Tye Brady (Amazon Robotics)
Amazon Robotics’ chief technology officer will discuss how the company is using the latest in robotics and AI to optimize its massive logistics. He’ll also discuss the future of warehouse automation and how humans and robots share a work space. 

Engineering for the Red Planet with Lucy Condakchian (Maxar Technologies)
Maxar Technologies has been involved with U.S. space efforts for decades, and is about to send its sixth (!) robotic arm to Mars aboard NASA’s Mars 2020 rover. Lucy Condakchian is general manager of robotics at Maxar and will speak to the difficulty and exhilaration of designing robotics for use in the harsh environments of space and other planets.

Toward a Driverless Future with Anca Dragan (Waymo/UC Berkeley) and Jur van den Berg (Ike)
Autonomous driving is set to be one of the biggest categories for robotics and AI. But there are plenty of roadblocks standing in its way. Experts will discuss how we get there from here. 

See the full agenda here

If you’re a startup, nab one of the 5 demo tables left and showcase your company to new customers, press, and potential investors. Demo tables run $2200 and come with 4 attendee tickets so you can divide and conquer the networking scene at the conference.

Students, get your super-reduced $50 ticket here and learn from some of the biggest names in the biz and meet your future employer or internship opportunity.

Don’t forget, the early bird ticket sale ends on Jan 31. After that, prices go up by $150. Purchase your tickets here and save an additional 18% when you book a group of 4 or more.

 


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As autonomy stalls, lidar companies learn to adapt

21:32 | 23 January

Lidar sensors are likely to be essential to autonomous vehicles, but if there are none of the latter, how can you make money with the former? Among the industry executives I spoke with, the outlook is optimistic as they unhitch their wagons from the sputtering star of self-driving cars. As it turns out, a few years of manic investment does wonders for those who have the wisdom to apply it properly.

The show floor at CES 2020 was packed with lidar companies exhibiting in larger spaces, seemingly in greater numbers than before. That seemed at odds with reports that 2019 had been a sort of correction year for the industry, so I met with executives and knowledgeable types at several companies to hear their take on the sector’s transformation over the last couple of years.

As context, 2017 was perhaps peak lidar, nearing the end of several years of nearly feverish investment in a variety of companies. It was less a gold rush than a speculative land rush: autonomous vehicles were purportedly right around the corner and each would need a lidar unit… or five. The race to invest in a winner was on, leading to an explosion of companies claiming ascendancy over their rivals.

Unfortunately, as many will recall, autonomous cars seem to be no closer today than they were then, as the true difficulty of the task dawned on those undertaking it.

 


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India’s space agency will fly a half-humanoid robot to prepare for its first human spaceflight missions

19:03 | 23 January

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is getting ready to begin its human spaceflight program, which aims to carry its first astronauts starting in 2022. In advance of that milestone, however, the agency will be launching its ‘Gaganyaan’ crewed orbital spacecraft later this year if all goes to plan – and while it won’t carry any human passengers, it will have one robotic crew member on board.

‘Vyommitra’ (via Time of India) is the name ISRO has given to its “half-humanoid” robotic astronaut, which will be on board the Gaganyaan when it takes its first flight in December. The robot has a range of functions and features, including being able to operate switch panels to control the capsule, and it can operate as a “companion,” with the ability to “converse with the astronauts, recognize them and respond to their queries,” as the robot put it in its own words at an unveiling this week.

Vyommitra is bilingual, and its semi-anthropomorphic nature will mean it can provide valuable data from this first uncrewed flight about how Gaganyaan would perform were a person actually strapped in and at the controls. The robot can also apparently perform “all” crew functions, including controlling environmental and life support systems, and it’s designed to have an expressive face and lip-synch capabilities for relaying info via voice, including messages from ground control.

This isn’t the first robot with human-like design or capabilities to make its way to space: Russia’s Skybot has made its way to the ISS, and NASA is testing spheroid robots called ‘Astrobee’ that are designed to support astronauts and act as assistants. Each of these favors a different approach, however, and Vyommitra is an interesting take because of the clear effort put in to have it resemble a human in form as well as function.

 


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Boston Dynamics’ Spot gets an SDK and co-starring role in an Adam Savage video

18:09 | 23 January

This next year will be one of the most important since Boston Dynamics was founded back in 1992. After changing hands from Google to Softbank, the robot maker is getting more aggressive about commercializing products, bringing Spot to market, while Handle waits in the wings.

The news includes a new CEO, its first since founding. This week, Boston Dynamics is also making Spot’s SDK available to the public via Github. That will go live tomorrow. It’s a pretty big step for the company and its plans to grow its first commercially-available robot into a platform — something it’s talked up for a while now.

VP Michael Perry offered up the following comment to TechCrunch,

The SDK enables a broad range of developers and non-traditional roboticists to communicate with the robot and develop custom applications that enable Spot to do useful tasks across a wide range of industries. Developers will still need to become part of the Early Adopter Program to lease the robot to execute their code, but all interested parties will now be able to view the SDK and existing early adopters can open source their own code. With the SDK, developers in the Early Adopter Program can create custom methods of controlling the robot, integrate sensor information into data analysis tools, and design custom payloads which expand the capabilities of the base robot platform.

One of our customers Holobuilder is using the SDK to integrate Spot into their existing app. With what they’ve developed, workers can use a phone to teach Spot to document a path around a construction site and then Spot will autonomously navigate that path and take 360 images that go right into their processing software. Other customers are exploring VR control, automated registration of laser-scanning, connecting Spot’s data to cloud work order services, using Edge computing to help Spot semantically understand its environment, and much more.

Boston Dynamics has already showcased a number of potential applications for the robot on stage at TechCrunch’s annual Robotics+AI conference. Early uses include security and construction site monitoring. Spot’s ability to walk up and down stairs and open doors make it uniquely qualified among these sorts of robots. Another video, which featured Spot being used in state police drills, meanwhile, raised some concern with the ACLU.

Of that, now-former CEO Marc Raibert told me, “There is a part of a humanity that loves to worry about robots taking over or being weaponized or something like that. We definitely want to counter that narrative. We’re not interested in weaponized robots. We’ve also gotten positive feedback from the fact that the police were using our robot to look at suspicious packages. There’s a real safety issue there and that it generated some additional interest with us as well. I mean, this isn’t really anything different than any new technology. There’s a wide variety of things it can be used for. We’re working to be responsible and trying find the good things that it could be used for.”

The truth is that the nature of Boston Dynamics’ robots have — and probably always will — raise suspicions among an audience trained to be suspicious of large robots like Spot through generations of sci-fi stories. Certainly having it in the field with officers only contributed to such suspicions for many. Also true is that once Spot and the SDK are out in the world, BD will only have so much control over how such products are used in the world.

One well-known early adopter is Adam Savage. The former Mythbuster got his hands on a Spot over the holidays and produced a video wherein he interacts with the robot like a kid on Christmas day. Understandable. I’ve controlled Spot myself and it’s pretty awesome once you get over the fleeting concern that you’re going to break a machine the size of a large dog that costs as much as a car.

According to his video, Savage will be working with Spot for the next year.

 


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Boston Dynamics appoints its first-ever new CEO

18:00 | 23 January

After more than a quarter-century spent developing some of the industry’s most iconic and advanced machines, Boston Dynamics is a company in the midst of a profound transformation. This week, the Waltham, Mass.-based organization issued a number of key announcements, all focused on the same fundamental shift, as it readies the release of two commercial robots: Spot and Handle.

The top of the company has recently seen its first major shakeup since its founding in the early 1990s. Founder Marc Raibert has stepped aside from his role as CEO, a transition that occurred quietly back in October. Longtime employee Rob Playter will be stepping into the position, having most recently served as Boston Dynamics’ COO.

Playter joined the company early on, after penning a PhD thesis on “Passive Dynamics in the Control of Gymnastic Maneuvers.” A former NCAA gymnast himself, Playter’s work clearly has a bit of a spiritual successor in the complex maneuvers of the bipedal Atlas — arguably the most advanced of Boston Dynamics’ machines.

The move comes during an important crossroads for the company, and Raibert, its longtime leader, public face and chief evangelist. “I just had my 70th birthday,” he tells TechCrunch. “So I’ve been thinking about this for about a year that we needed a succession plan and I had been working on it during that time, talking to SoftBank, making sure they were cool with the idea, and making sure I was cool with the idea.”

Playter has hung with the company through numerous changes, serving as a Robotics Director at Google after the software giant purchased Boston Dynamics back in 2013. When the company switched hands to SoftBank, he took on the COO role.

atlas gymnastics boston dynamics

“I’ve been the organizational guy for a long time,” he says. “I basically hired most of the people in the company and growing us aggressively is a big challenge right now. Over the past year, bringing on new people into our executive leadership team has been a primary goal, as well as feeding an insatiable appetite for our technical teams to grow in order to meet the goals we’ve set for them. Which includes not only advancing the state of the art of robotics but actually making some of our robots into products and delivering them and supporting them and changing the organization to do so.”

Focus for many at Boston Dynamics has shifted in recent years. At our Robotics event a few years back, Raibert announced plans to offer a commercial version of its Spot robot, aimed at performing security, construction site inspections and a variety of different tasks. Spot officially went on sale in September, and the company tells TechCrunch that it’s ramping up production with hopes of hitting 1,000 a year.

Boston Dynamics has long insisted that the production version of Spot will be a platform, allowing end users to tailor it to a variety of different tasks. That dream takes a step closer to reality with the release of the Spot software development kit on GitHub this week.

“The SDK enables a broad range of developers and non-traditional roboticists to communicate with the robot and develop custom applications that enable Spot to do useful tasks across a wide range of industries,” VP Michael Perry said in a statement offered to TechCrunch. “With the SDK, developers in the Early Adopter Program can create custom methods of controlling the robot, integrate sensor information into data analysis tools, and design custom payloads which expand the capabilities of the base robot platform.”

The company has already announced a few early partners. Perry again, “One of our customers, HoloBuilder, is using the SDK to integrate Spot into their existing app. With what they’ve developed, workers can use a phone to teach Spot to document a path around a construction site and then Spot will autonomously navigate that path and take 360 images that go right into their processing software. Other customers are exploring VR control, automated registration of laser-scanning, connecting Spot’s data to cloud work order services, using Edge computing to help Spot semantically understand its environment, and much more.”

In keeping with the company’s longstanding viral approach to marketing, buster of myths Adam Savage is among the early developers. Savage will participate in development with the robot for the next year, a milestone he celebrated with the release of a Tested video that understandably mostly entails him controlling the robot like a kid with a new RC car on Christmas morning.

Ultimately, Boston Dynamics will only have so much input into what happens to these robots once they’re out in the world. There are currently nearly 100 robots out in the world, and production is ramping up to around 83 units a month. A video that debuted onstage at our robotics event last year recently caused a dust up with the ACLU after showcasing state police using Spot in hostage rescue field training.

“There is a part of a humanity that loves to worry about robots taking over or being weaponized or something like that,” says Raibert. “We definitely want to counter that narrative. We’re not interested in weaponized robots. We’ve also gotten positive feedback from the fact that the police were using our robot to look at suspicious packages. There’s a real safety issue there and that it generated some additional interest with us as well. I mean, this isn’t really anything different than any new technology. There’s a wide variety of things it can be used for. We’re working to be responsible and trying find the good things that it could be used for.”

SoftBank’s 2018 acquisition marked a major turning point for the company, of course. Though Boston Dynamics insists that the investor firm has done little in the way of pressing it into commercialization. Those plans, it explains, were already in the works.

“I think the remarkable thing about SoftBank is they’re absolutely interested in the products and the moneymaking potential of what we’re doing while having a very serious interest in support for the longer range stuff we’re doing,” says Raibert, who is staying on at BD/SoftBank in a chairman role. “And over the 18 months that we’ve been part of SoftBank, I’ve repeatedly tested that commitment. Talking to the top leadership at SoftBank and they have repeatedly endorsed that. They’re very enthusiastic also for us to productize and make robots and make robot products.”

The company will maintain its commitment to developing research robots, a role Raibert will continue to help facilitate. That list includes products like Atlas and, no doubt, some still unannounced products. Others, including Handle, will be developed with an eye toward production. In April, the company acquired Bay Area-based 3D vision startup Kinema Systems to bring imaging to the pick-and-place robot.

Boston Dynamics tells TechCrunch that it plans to offer the robot up for commercial use in the next two years.

“We’ve been doing proof of concept tests with Handle and some early customers to validate our expectations on what the useful tasks are in a warehouse for moving boxes around,” says Playter. “We have a small set of those customers and we’re getting feedback from them. So far they’re really excited about this capability. It’s unique. As far as I know, we’re the only case-picking warehouse robot in development right now. And this is just a ubiquitous job, whether you’re unloading trucks or loading trucks or building pallets or de-palletizing. There’s thousands of warehouses just full of boxes.”

 


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NASA reveals the payloads for the first commercial Moon cargo deliveries

16:18 | 23 January

NASA has finalized the payloads for its first cargo deliveries scheduled to be carried by commercial lunar landers, vehicles created by companies the agency selected to take part in its Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program. In total, there are 16 different payloads, which consist of a number of difference science experiments and technology experiments, that will be carried by landers built by Astrobotic and Intuitive Machines. Both of these landers are scheduled to launch next year, carrying their cargo to the Moon’s surface and helping prepare the way for NASA’s mission to return humans to the Moon by 2024.

Astrobotic’s Peregrine is set to launch aboard a rocket provided by the United Launch Alliance (ULA), while Intuitive Machines’ Nova-C lander will make its own lunar trip aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Both landers will carry two of the payloads on the list, including a Laser Retro-Reflector Array (LRA) that is basically a mirror-based precision location device for situating the lander itself; and a Navigation Doppler Lidar for Precise Velocity and Range Sensing (NDL) – a laser-based sensor that can provide precision navigation during descent and touchdown. Both of these payloads are being developed by NASA to ensure safe, controlled and specifically targeted landing of spacecraft on the Moon’s surface, and their use here be crucial in building robust lunar landing systems to support Artemis through the return of human astronauts to the Moon and beyond.

Besides those two payloads, everything else on either lander is unique to one vehicle or the other. Astrobotic is carrying more, but its Peregrine lander can hold more cargo – its payload capacity tops out at around 585 lbs, whereas the Nova-C can carry a maximum of 220 lbs. The full list of what each lander will have on board is available below, as detailed by NASA.

Overall, NASA has 14 total contractors that could potentially provide lunar payload delivery services through its CLPS program. That basically amounts to a list of approved vendors, who then bid on whatever contracts the agency has available for this specific need. Other companies on the CLPS list include Blue Origin, Lockheed Martin, SpaceX and more. Starting with these two landers next year, NASA hopes to fly around two missions per year each year through the CLPS program.

Astrobotic Payloads

  • Surface Exosphere Alterations by Landers (SEAL): SEAL will investigate the chemical response of lunar regolith to the thermal, physical and chemical disturbances generated during a landing, and evaluate contaminants injected into the regolith by the landing itself. It will give scientists insight into the how a spacecraft landing might affect the composition of samples collected nearby. It is being developed at NASA Goddard.
  • Photovoltaic Investigation on Lunar Surface (PILS): PILS is a technology demonstration that is based on an International Space Station test platform for validating solar cells that convert light to electricity. It will demonstrate advanced photovoltaic high-voltage use for lunar surface solar arrays useful for longer mission durations. It is being developed at Glenn Research Center in Cleveland.
  • Linear Energy Transfer Spectrometer (LETS): The LETS radiation sensor will collect information about the lunar radiation environment and relies on flight-proven hardware that flew in space on the Orion spacecraft’s inaugural uncrewed flight in 2014. It is being developed at NASA Johnson.
  • Near-Infrared Volatile Spectrometer System (NIRVSS): NIRVSS will measure surface and subsurface hydration, carbon dioxide and methane – all resources that could potentially be mined from the Moon — while also mapping surface temperature and changes at the landing site. It is being developed at Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, California.
  • Mass Spectrometer Observing Lunar Operations (MSolo): MSolo will identify low-molecular weight volatiles. It can be installed to either measure the lunar exosphere or the spacecraft outgassing and contamination. Data gathered from MSolo will help determine the composition and concentration of potentially accessible resources. It is being developed at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
  • PROSPECT Ion-Trap Mass Spectrometer (PITMS) for Lunar Surface Volatiles: PITMS will characterize the lunar exosphere after descent and landing and throughout the lunar day to understand the release and movement of volatiles. It was previously developed for ESA’s (European Space Agency) Rosetta mission and is being modified for this mission by NASA Goddard and ESA.
  • Neutron Spectrometer System (NSS): NSS will search for indications of water-ice near the lunar surface by measuring how much hydrogen-bearing materials are at the landing site as well as determine the overall bulk composition of the regolith there. NSS is being developed at NASA Ames.
  • Neutron Measurements at the Lunar Surface (NMLS): NMLS will use a neutron spectrometer to determine the amount of neutron radiation at the Moon’s surface, and also observe and detect the presence of water or other rare elements. The data will help inform scientists’ understanding of the radiation environment on the Moon. It’s based on an instrument that currently operates on the space station and is being developed at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
  • Fluxgate Magnetometer (MAG): MAG will characterize certain magnetic fields to improve understanding of energy and particle pathways at the lunar surface. NASA Goddard is the lead development center for the MAG payload.

Intuitive Machines Payloads

  • Lunar Node 1 Navigation Demonstrator (LN-1): LN-1 is a CubeSat-sized experiment that will demonstrate autonomous navigation to support future surface and orbital operations. It has flown on the space station and is being developed at NASA Marshall.
  • Stereo Cameras for Lunar Plume-Surface Studies (SCALPSS): SCALPSS will capture video and still image data of the lander’s plume as the plume starts to impact the lunar surface until after engine shut off, which is critical for future lunar and Mars vehicle designs. It is being developed at NASA Langley, and also leverages camera technology used on the Mars 2020 rover.
  • Low-frequency Radio Observations for the Near Side Lunar Surface (ROLSES): ROLSES will use a low-frequency radio receiver system to determine photoelectron sheath density and scale height. These measurements will aide future exploration missions by demonstrating if there will be an effect on the antenna response or larger lunar radio observatories with antennas on the lunar surface. In addition, the ROLSES measurements will confirm how well a lunar surface-based radio observatory could observe and image solar radio bursts. It is being developed at NASA Goddard.

 


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