Aerospace Startup Reveals Lunar Rover to Carry People, Cargo on the Moon

On Friday, Aerospace startup Venturi Astrolab revealed its new interplanetary traveler designed to transport cargo and people across the moon’s surface – and ultimately Mars.  

As such, the company notes it plans to develop a convoy of these rovers in the forthcoming decade to assist NASA and retail companies in selecting a long-term presence on the moon.  

FLEX and Astrolab aim to exploit the world’s renewed push to send people back to the moon, according to Jaret Matthews, Astrolab’s CEO.  

In the meantime, NASA is working to send the first woman and person of color to the moon using the space agency’s Artemis program.  

While Blue Origin and SpaceX are extending their landers that will take people to the lunar surface, many commercial companies like Intuitive Machines and Astrobotic are constructing robotic lunar landers that will carry cargo to the moon.  

The rover can scrunch down and swipe cargoes from the moon’s surface, maintaining them under its belly before depositing them at their location.   

Its “modular payload concept” can carry many different objects, so long as they are built to an agreed-upon standard of size and shape. 

In maintaining its name FLEX, the rover can move semi-autonomously, be controlled remotely — or it can even be altered to include a crew interface, allowing astronauts to ride on the rover while guiding it through lunar terrain. 

“Companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin are solving the long-haul transportation problem, and we want to solve the local transportation problem — and ultimately set the standard for lunar logistics,” Matthews said.  

In addition, Astrolab needs FLEX to have the capabilities to carry as much cargo as possible, which is why the company went with the modular design.  

The company hopes to create similar shipping containers used on Earth and made according to specific international standards for cargo on the moon. “You have all those containers kind of move seamlessly through the global supply chain, and that’s an efficient model where all this infrastructure is designed to work together,” it added. 

“Therefore, that approach makes sense to take forward to the Moon and Mars.” 

It is also worth mentioning that talks started with NASA, which set out a call for companies last year to design a “lunar terrain vehicle” that could transport future Artemis astronauts across the moon’s south pole.  

Astrolab contacted possible customers, including SpaceX, whose headquarters are close to Astrolab’s in Hawthorne.   

Having a task control center built with a thermal vacuum chamber aimed for testing, Astrolab plans to up its first FLEX rovers in the coming years, testing them out on the lunar surface before astronauts arrive.  

 “Astronaut time is a very considerable resource in the world, with safety being a priority, to be able to do as much robotically in their absence as you can,” Matthews says. 

The unique part is that FLEX will supposedly launch multiple types of rockets and landers when it’s complete.