With this major milestone achieved, the structural test model of the largest lunar lander since the Apollo Lunar Module is now heading for environmental testing.
PITTSBURGH (Astrobotic PR) — Astrobotic’s second lunar lander mission, Griffin Mission One (GM1), has taken a major step toward flight by completing its Griffin Structural Test Model (STM). This full-scale model will undergo a series of rigorous tests to inform the final construction of the Griffin lunar lander flight, which is expected to begin this year.
Comparable to the weight of an elephant, the fully loaded Griffin STM weighs over 13,000 pounds and is the largest lunar lander since the Apollo Lunar Module. The STM is an essential tool to ensure the Griffin lander can survive the harsh launch environments. The STM will first undergo static, then acoustic and vibration tests in specialized off-site facilities.
“The STM deck was hollowed out of a single 12′ x 12′ sheet of aluminum and has over 2,500 bolts securing the primary structure alone. We built STM as an exploratory activity, allowing us to try out tools, equipment, and processes before spaceflight,” says Brandon Schoonmaker, mechanical systems manager at Astrobotic.
Following this environmental test campaign, the Griffin model will be shipped to NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland to perform a final series of escape test sequences with a prototype of its cargo – the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration. NASA Rover, or VIPER. These tests will verify that VIPER can successfully deploy to the lunar surface from Griffin’s significant ramps. It will also be an opportunity for rover operators to practice operating in tandem with Griffin.
After launching into space aboard a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket, Griffin will deliver VIPER to the lunar surface in late 2023 as part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS), under the aegis of the Artemis program. “With the completion of this major milestone, Griffin takes one step closer to serving as America’s lander for lunar cargo,” said Astrobotic CEO John Thornton.