Nasa has contracted space robotic technology developer Astrobotic to deliver its Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER).

As part of the $199.5m contract, Astrobotic will provide end-to-end services for the integration of the lunar water-seeking mobile rover its Griffin lander and launch from Earth to the Moon’s South Pole in late 2023.

The nearly 1,000lb rover will roam the lunar surface for 100 Earth days to collect data, including the location and concentration of ice using its four science instruments.

This data will be used to inform the first global water resource maps of the Moon.

Under the Artemis programme, the agency aims to develop a sustainable, long-term presence on the Moon.

The first delivery of other instruments from Astrobotic is scheduled to begin next year.

Nasa administrator Jim Bridenstine said: “The VIPER rover and the commercial partnership that will deliver it to the Moon are a prime example of how the scientific community and US industry are making Nasa’s lunar exploration vision a reality.

“Commercial partners are changing the landscape of space exploration, and VIPER is going to be a big boost to our efforts to send the first woman and next man to the lunar surface in 2024 through the Artemis programme.”

VIPER will support Nasa’s efforts to send astronauts to the lunar surface in 2024. It is part of Nasa’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative.

Through the CLPS initiative, Nasa is working with its industry partners to deliver scientific instruments and technology demonstrations to the Moon.

The space agency also previously awarded contracts to three companies to conduct CLPS deliveries to the Moon, which will start next year.

Northrop Grumman recently secured a contract for the development of the initial crew module of the Nasa’s Gateway lunar orbiting outpost.