Astrobotic officially opened its new headquarters in Pittsburgh in a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Monday. The 47,000 square foot complex is the largest private facility in the world dedicated to lunar logistics.
Astrobotic’s Peregrine and Griffin lunar landers will be built on-site, with Peregrine set to become the first commercial mission to the Moon, and the first American lander on the Moon since the Apollo missions.
Monday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony was attended by a wide range of prominent federal, state, and local officials, including U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, U.S. Congressman Conor Lamb, Pennsylvania Governor’s Action Team SW Director Eric Bitar, Allegheny Country Executive Rich Fitzgerald, and Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto. They were joined by local business and community leaders LaShawn Burton Faulk, Executive Director of Manchester Citizens Corporation, Sam Reiman, Director of the Richard King Mellon Foundation, and David Malone, Chairman and CEO of Gateway Financial.
Astrobotic’s headquarters houses offices, labs, and fabrication areas, including a “clean room” and “high bay” required for final spacecraft assembly. Astrobotic will use the facility to build its lines of landers, rovers, autonomous spacecraft navigation systems, and other space technologies. The facility will also be used to operate them. When Peregrine lands on the Moon next year, it will be controlled directly from the Astrobotic Mission Control Center inside the Pittsburgh headquarters.
Phase two of the headquarters’ construction, now underway, will add a rover test pit, a drone flying arena, a public gathering space, additional offices, labs, and fabrication spaces.
The opening of the headquarters marks a major milestone in the company’s history. Astrobotic’s new headquarters is located in Pittsburgh’s Northside, home to five historical districts. The headquarters is within a mile of several popular cultural destinations, including The Carnegie Science Center, Heinz Field, Stage AE the National Aviary, and the Children’s Museum.
After its inception as a private company spinoff from Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute, Astrobotic started in a 400 square foot room above a bagel shop in Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood. It later moved to a former steel-stamping factory in the Strip District, and then an office building downtown. The company has grown rapidly, signing fifteen commercial customers representing seven countries for its lunar payload delivery service, and winning a $79.5 million NASA contract to fly scientific instruments aboard Peregrine, and again in June by winning a $199.5 million contract to deliver NASA’s water-hunting rover, VIPER, to the south pole of the Moon.
“I like to say we’re a 13-year overnight success story,” said Astrobotic CEO John Thornton. “In the past 18 months, we grew from a staff of 18 to more than 100 employees, with two funded lander missions and a rover mission to the Moon, and multiple contracts to develop exciting new space technologies. It’s still surreal.”
“You [Astrobotic] are currently leading the market with seventeen contracts in place for your first mission with customers in seven countries,” said US Secretary of Commerce, Wilbur Ross. “The Commerce Department will continue to make resources available to you and to the broader U.S. commercial space industry to ensure that we remain the leader in space commerce.”
“I personally want to thank all the folks at Astrobotic for taking on this national mission. You are a big part of our strategy going forward to be a successful, strong, growing economy in a country that is well-defended and well-represented in space. So thank you very much, we’re proud of you,” says U.S. Congressman Conor Lamb.
“The first Astrobotic mission, which will fly on Peregrine, will deliver about a dozen NASA-developed payloads to a mid-latitude region on the Moon. These NASA-developed payloads will range in capabilities from technologies to demonstrations, demonstrate functionality in the unique environment of the Moon. We’ll also fly science instruments, so we’ll obtain important scientific data to help inform our future exploration missions,” said Ryan Stephan, NASA Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) Payload Integration Manager.