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Jump aboard! Reach for the Moon on a rideshare.

Jump aboard! Reach for the Moon on a rideshare.

By Anita Heward on February 26, 2015

Launching into space is expensive.  But, like anything else, joining forces can help bring the cost down!

This week, Google Lunar XPRIZE Milestone-winning teams, Astrobotic and Hakuto, have announced a partnership! Hakuto’s rovers---the adorable Moonraker and Tetris---will ride along on Astrobotic’s Griffin lander to the surface of the Moon. Once they touch down, the race is on with Astrobotic’s Andy rover to travel 500 meters, send back HD video and imagery and claim the $20 million Grand Prize.

Rideshares have already been critical in opening up a new era of commercial activity in Earth orbit.

Adaptors now allow integration of multiple satellites into a single launcher. This has encouraged launch providers to offer up spare capacity on their rocket for additional customers to piggyback their spacecraft into orbit at a reduced cost.  The main spacecraft is released safely into orbit first, then any secondary spacecraft are deployed. While sharing a launch into space may involve a small increased risk to the main customer, the benefits of sharing out the cost through rideshares make it worthwhile.

Rideshares have become commonplace over the last few years. Along with the miniaturization of satellites, the rideshare model has transformed the cost of putting a spacecraft in orbit from millions of dollars down to hundreds of thousands for a cubesat.  This is leading to a boom in companies seeking to explore the possibilities of small satellites.

But the low-cost opportunities from rideshares aren’t limited to Earth orbit.  Several of our Google Lunar XPRIZE teams are planning their business around delivering spacecraft and technology to the Moon.  Rideshares aboard lunar landers could open up a new economy for small, niche missions on the Moon.  So, look out---the Hakuto and Astrobotic announcement may start a trend!

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