Spacebit forms partnership, prepares to send tiny rover to the moon

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WASHINGTON – London-based Spacebit plans to send a rover small enough to fit in a single cubesat to the moon in 2021 on Astrobotic’s Peregrine lunar lander.

The rover, which walks and jumps on four legs, “is one of the smallest if not the smallest rover in the world,” Spacebit Founder Pavlo Tanasyuk told SpaceNewsat the 2019 International Astronautical Congress here.

Spacebit, a company founded by Tanasyuk in 2014, is focused on two businesses: data and robotics. At IAC, the company was primarily showcasing its robotic technologies.

Spacebit announced plans Oct. 23 to form a partnership with the International Astronautical Federation Regional Group for Latin America and the Caribbean. The Ecuadorian Civilian Space Agency and Dereum Labs “will enhance the development of robotic technology for the mission,” according to a news release.

Tanasyuk, who is Ukrainian, has spent 15 years studying and working in the United Kingdom. Since he was a child, Tanasyuk has wanted to do something space-related. His mother has the proof: a note Tanasyuk wrote when he was nine years old.

Tanasyuk established Spacebit after selling Monexy, a cloud-based Eastern European payment system. In recent months, a couple of new investors joined Tanasyuk in backing the company, Tanasyuk said.

Spacebit’s first mission is fully funded and the company has a contract to fly on Peregrine, Tanasyuk said.

Astrobotic announced plans in August to launch its Peregrine lander on a United Launch Alliance Vulcan Centaur in 2021.

Spacebit also is developing a follow-on mission to send a rover to the moon’s surface that would carry and then deploy additional four-legged rovers called spiders.

Spacebit developed its own technology rather than turning to teams previously involved in the Google Lunar X Prize. However, the company is inviting companies and individuals who were vying for the Google Lunar X Prize teams to travel with it to the moon.

“If someone is willing to contribute to this project, we would want them to join our team,” Tanasyuk said. “Some of the Google Lunar X Prize teams have great technology.”

While Tanasyuk loves space, he said the business is far more difficult than payment systems, where “you transfer money from point A to point B and earn a commission of 0.8 percent.”