Astrolab's FLEX rover to join SpaceX's moon mission

SpaceX will use the Starship launch and landing system for this mission as soon as mid 2026.
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Astrolab FLEX
Astrolab FLEX


Astrolab announced that it had secured an agreement with Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) to transport Astrolab's Flexible Logistics and Exploration (FLEX) rover on a future Moon mission, according to a recent press release.

As early as mid-2026, SpaceX will use the Starship launch and landing system for this mission.

The largest and most capable rover ever to visit the Moon

After this mission, Astrolab's FLEX will be the largest and most capable rover ever to visit the Moon. The FLEX rover is approximately three times the mass of its greatest predecessor, with a maximum combined rover and cargo mass of more than two tons.

This expanded capacity opens up many new prospects for scientific research and business ventures on the lunar surface. Astrolab has already signed multiple client agreements for this mission's payloads. The details of these agreements are expected to be released later this spring.

Historically, planetary rovers have been custom-built for each mission. These missions have traditionally occurred once every ten years. Nevertheless, with the rapid increase in launch cadence and considerable increases in launch vehicle payload capacity, this bespoke approach to rover design is no longer practicable or efficient.

That is why Astrolab created the FLEX rover as a modular system for transporting and deploying payloads. Astrolab aims to demonstrate the benefits of having a highly capable and versatile rover on the lunar surface to create infrastructure, conduct high-priority science, and install technology demos and other specialized equipment.

Astrolab intends for this rover to be the first of a fleet of FLEX rovers on the lunar surface, accelerating the ambition of establishing a permanent human presence on the Moon and, eventually, Mars.

“Our Astrolab team has created much more than a rover for use on the Moon or Mars,” said Jaret Matthews, Founder, and CEO of Astrolab.

“We’ve created a logistics system that can accommodate a wide variety of cargo. We expect this approach will help establish a permanent lunar outpost on the Moon at a lower cost and in less time than previously envisioned. We are delighted that this contract with SpaceX will allow Astrolab to demonstrate the advantages of the FLEX rover and its modular payload system.”

“Starship is designed to transport large amounts of cargo, including rovers, to the Moon and Mars for research and exploration,” said Tom Ochinero, Senior Vice President, Commercial Business at SpaceX. “Developing sustainable outposts will require lunar logistics and transportation on the surface of the Moon, like what Astrolab offers. We look forward to working with the Astrolab team to deliver their FLEX Rover to the surface of the Moon.”

In addition to the ability to control FLEX from Earth, Astrolab built the vehicle to function as an unpressurized rover for a crew of two men on the lunar surface. This design meets NASA's requirements for the Lunar Terrain Vehicle (LTV), a rover that will be a long-term component of the agency's Artemis program.

FLEX is more than just a concept. In the California desert last year, the Astrolab team began testing a full-scale, fully functional terrestrial prototype of the FLEX rover.

Crewed and telerobotic operations, deployment of a range of heavy payloads, science activities with its robotic arm, and engineering testing of the rover's mobility capabilities in difficult terrain were all part of the tests. Testing in lunar analog sites throughout California has continued through 2022 and this year.

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