COLORADO SPRINGS — Leidos is working with the racing company NASCAR to develop a lunar rover they will offer for an upcoming NASA competition.

Leidos unveiled its design April 18 for a Lunar Terrain Vehicle (LTV) that can accommodate two astronauts for excursions on the lunar surface starting with the Artemis 5 mission in the late 2020s. The rover could be used autonomously as well when not needed by astronauts.

“We’re about to enter a new moon race, except we’re going to enter a moon race with a partner that is really good at going fast, NASCAR,” said Steve Cook, president of Leidos Dynetics Group, during an event at the Leidos exhibit at 38th Space Symposium where the company revealed a full-scale prototype of the rover.

Leidos executives said they chose to partner with NASCAR on the LTV design for technical and business reasons. “Their deep experience and capability in developing high performance vehicles in harsh environments is something that obviously can help us a great deal as we engineer this vehicle,” said Jonathan Pettus, senior vice president for aerospace, defense and civil operations at Dynetics.

He cited as one example NASCAR’s work on a new race car design with design principles, like fast and agile maintenance, that is also useful for a lunar rover.

Another reason for the partnership is commercialization. Industry expects NASA to follow a services model for the LTV project, procuring the rover as a service rather than a more conventional contract to acquire a rover. That could allow the company to offer the rover to other users or even seek sponsorships.

“NASCAR is very good at connecting sponsors, and we are excited about what that may mean in terms of our commercial plans for the future and how we can leverage their expertise,” Pettus said. “We think there’s a lot of opportunity there.”

“The last couple of months we’ve getting to know the Leidos Dynetics team really well,” said Pete Jung, NASCAR senior vice president and chief marketing officer, saying it helped the organization look ahead as it celebrates its 75th anniversary. “Another thing that gets us excited is how our organizations are aligned in terms of philosophies and commitments to sustainability and equality.”

The team working on the LTV design includes companies with both automotive and aerospace experience. They include Roush Industries, Collins Aerospace, Motiv Space Systems and Moog, among others.

Pettus said they are designing the rover to accommodate a wide range of payloads, providing them with power, communications and thermal control. “We’ve gotten feedback from a variety of potential commercial and academic partners around payload needs, so we’ve tried to address that as we’ve designed the vehicle.”

Leidos is one of several companies that have announced plans to propose LTV designs to NASA. Lockheed Martin announced plans in 2021 to work with General Motors on a rover, while Northrop Grumman is working with companies such as Intuitive Machines and Michelin to create a rover. Startup Astrolab plans to offer its Flexible Logistics and Exploration (FLEX) rover it is developing for robotic and human missions.

NASA, in procurement filings, says it expects to issue a final request for proposal for LTV no later than May 26, with a contract award anticipated in late November.

Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...