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These 3 companies will help NASA build vertical solar arrays for the moon

a vertical solar array on the moon with robot lander and rover
An artist's illustration of a vertical solar array deployed on the moon for NASA's Artemis program. (Image credit: NASA)

NASA has tapped three companies to help develop new solar arrays to power Artemis missions to the moon by astronauts and robots. 

The space agency this month awarded a total of $19.4 million to the companies Astrobotic Technology, Honeybee Robotics and Lockheed Martin to develop vertical solar arrays that can power equipment for Artemis program astronauts or robotic systems on the moon

"These prototypes will provide promising solutions for reliable power sources on the moon, which are key to the success of almost anything we do on the surface," Niki Werkheiser, director of technology maturation in NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate, said in an Aug. 23 statement (opens in new tab). "This exciting effort plays a critical role that will quite literally help power our Artemis exploration in the uniquely challenging environment of the moon's South Pole." 

NASA's Artemis program aims to return astronaut to the moon by 2025, build a Gateway space station around the moon and test lunar habitats, rovers and gear that astronauts could be used for trips to Mars. To do that, astronauts and their robotic helpers will need deployable solar arrays designed to extend upward to catch the sunlight in the dusty lunar environment.

"The vertical orientation and height of these new designs will help prevent loss of power at the lunar poles where the sun does not rise very far above the horizon," NASA wrote in the statement. "When the sun is low on the horizon, the moon's terrain can block some of its light, keeping it from reaching solar arrays that are low to the ground. By placing the solar arrays on tall masts, these designs allow for uninterrupted light and therefore produce more power."

Lockheed Martin of Littleton, Colorado will receive $7 million of the NASA solar array funds in the new agreement. Astrobotic of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Honeybee Robotics of Brooklyn, New York will each receive $6.2 million, NASA has said. All three companies were part of a group of five firms NASA picked in 2021 to begin developing lunar solar arrays.

The new funds are to be used to build and test prototypes of mast-mounted solar arrays so that one can be deployed at the moon's south pole "near the end of this decade," NASA wrote. 

"The designs must remain stable on sloped terrain and be resistant to abrasive lunar dust, all while minimizing both mass and stowed volume to aid in the system’s delivery to the lunar surface," NASA wrote in a description.

The solar array contracts are part of NASA's  Vertical Solar Array Technology project designed to support long-term surface operations on the moon. 

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Tariq Malik
Editor-in-Chief

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of Space.com and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became Space.com's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining Space.com, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter.