The VIPER moonship will have to wait until the first launch in November 2024, and NASA has requested additional time to further verify the reliability of the Astrobotic GRIFFIN landing vehicle.
The VIPER moonship will not go to the Moon in 2023, but will have to wait until at least November 2024. This is NASA's request to Astrobotic, so that the reliability of GRIFFIN lander can be tested more thoroughly. The latter, developed by Astrobotic itself, will be responsible for delivering VIPER to our satellite in search of ice on its surface.
Prior to this decision, VIPER was to reach the surface of the southern pole of the Moon in November 2023, the purpose of which is to investigate the surface of the Moon for ice traces and, therefore, water for future manned missions of Artemis, and to land at the western edge of the Crater Nobile on the southern pole of the Moon.
NASA has officially requested Astrobotic to postpone the shipment of the lunar ship until November 2024 so that the reliability of the GRIFFIN landing vehicle, which will be required to transport VIPER to the lunar surface, will be more closely checked by the heavy ship Falcon Heavy of SpaceX.
Unfortunately, this is not the first postponement of this mission: NASA and Astrobotic originally planned a mission in December 2022, from there to December 2023 and then, at the latest, to November 2024. While time is needed to ensure the reliability of the mission, let us hope that this will be the right time!
Following its own request to postpone the launch of VIPER, NASA quickly adjusted the CLPS contract with Astrobotic. In fact, the VIPER mission is only one of many missions planned under the Commercial Lunar Payload Services programme. As a result, NASA has allocated an additional $68 million to finance additional work on the GRIFIN Lander, bringing the total value of the contract to about $320 million.
VIPER, like other CLPS missions, has the fundamental goal of paving the way for future Artemis manned missions, which will be made possible through technological testing and the search for resources on the moon surface that these missions will carry out.
At the same time, Astrobotic is preparing another CLPS mission, in which it will deliver to the Moon a small landing vehicle, Peregrine, which is scheduled to be launched at the earliest this year.
In early 2022, 10 lunar missions were expected to be launched, but only one was yet to be launched: CAPSTONE