Venturi Astrolab awarded by NASA

Monaco, 3 April 2024 – The American company Venturi Astrolab, Inc. (Astrolab), a strategic partner of the Monegasque Venturi Group, has awarded a NASA contract to support the development of Artemis campaign’s lunar terrain vehicle. Its rover, known as FLEX, is equipped with batteries and wheels developed by Gildo Pastor’s teams in Monaco and Switzerland.

Venturi Astrolab, Inc. (Astrolab) announced that NASA has awarded the American company, together with its teammates Axiom Space, Inc., and Odyssey Space Research, a contract to advance the development of the Lunar Terrain Vehicle (LTV) which will help Artemis astronauts explore more of the Moon’s surface on future missions. The Astrolab team is one of three teams to win contract awards. Astrolab’s contract is worth up to $1.9 billion. Collectively the three contract winners may be awarded task orders over the next 13 years with a total potential value of $4.6 billion over the life of the program. The contracts allow for two additional years for the completion of services.

With this announcement, and after two decades dedicated to high-performance terrestrial electric vehicles, Venturi is taking another major step forward. Indeed, the industrial Group led by its President Gildo Pastor designs and manufactures the lunar vehicle’s wheels and batteries. The hyper-deformable wheels, developed and manufactured by the Venturi’s Swiss entity in collaboration with Astrolab, were presented at the Paris Air Show in June 2023. As for the batteries, these will be manufactured in Monaco in specifically designed facilities at the heart of the Venturi’s historic headquarters.

Astrolab first revealed the full-scale working prototype for its Flexible Logistics and Exploration (FLEX) rover in March of 2022. In the years since, Astrolab, has conducted thousands of hours of laboratory and field testing that has led to numerous design improvements. The improvements to the wheels and batteries came as a result of tests Astrolab conducted together with Venturi’s engineers.

As required by NASA, FLEX can carry two suited astronauts, accommodate a robotic arm to support science exploration, perform robotic cargo logistics, and survive the extreme temperatures at the lunar South Pole, which is a technological challenge, particularly for the hyper-deformable wheels and batteries. FLEX can be operated remotely from Earth even when astronauts are not present, or it can be operated by suited astronauts.

Once FLEX arrives on the lunar surface, Astrolab expects that FLEX will become the largest and most capable rover to ever travel to the Moon. With a maximum combined rover and cargo mass of more than two tons, the FLEX rover is nearly three times the mass of its largest predecessor. This increased capacity provides significantly more opportunities to conduct scientific experiments and commercial endeavors on the lunar surface.

“Through our strategic partnership with Astrolab, I am proud to see the Venturi Group’s know-how validated by NASA. After 20 years of innovation and world records in the field of terrestrial electric vehicles, we are now involved in an adventure that will go down in the history books: when Man returns to the Moon! When I see this rover, equipped with our wheels and batteries, operating up there I will have made my greatest dream come true”. – Gildo Pastor, President of the Venturi Group.

“Astrolab is honored to have its FLEX rover selected by NASA to participate in the development of creating a Lunar Terrain Vehicle for the Artemis Campaign. Our entire team, together with our business partners, including our strategic partner Venturi Group, are committed to delivering to NASA an LTV that serves as a critical tool in the agency’s efforts to establish a long-term human presence on the Moon.”  – Jaret Matthews, founder & CEO, Astrolab.