NASA lets five companies build pole with solar panels for moon base

Space agency NASA has selected five companies to design a ten-meter high pole with solar panels that can be erected independently. The companies will have a year and $700,000 to come up with a design.

The five companies were chosen on the basis of their submission. With the money and time they have now, they will have to work out their design, after which NASA will narrow the selection. The assignment is to make a mast ten meters high, which can be erected autonomously and can also be moved. The masts must be able to stand stably on a steep surface, be resistant to moon dust, and be as small and light as possible.

Astrobotic Technology, ATK Space Systems from Northrop Grumman, Honeybee Robotics, Lockheed Martin and Space System Loral from Maxar Technologies are the selected companies. After twelve months, they must show a design and NASA then chooses up to two parties to proceed with, each of whom will receive up to $7.5 million each for building prototypes and conducting tests.

The American space agency wants to use solar panels to power a future moon base. The lunar base should be ready by the end of this decade and is part of the Artemis mission, with which NASA will send astronauts to the moon again. In 2024, the first woman and man with that mission should be on the lunar surface. The first mission will last seven days. When the Artemis Base Camp is completed, it should allow for missions with stays of up to two months.

Illustration of solar panels on the moon. Image: NASA