Next U.S. Moon Landing by Private Companies, Not NASA

Next U.S. Moon Landing by Private Companies, Not NASA”

"We want to assure payload customers who select Lockheed Martin can be confident that we'll deliver on-time and on-budget". The company has previously worked with NASA to develop Moon commercial cargo transporation capabilities and was the first private company authorized by the U.S. government to land on the Moon.

"We're doing something that's never been done before", said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. NASA believes the first missions could head for the moon as soon as next year, and it already has some payloads in mind.

The first missions under CLPS could take place in 2019, NASA said in its announcement, although many industry sources expect 2020 to be a more reasonable date for a first mission under the program. Under this framework, NASA hopes to have its next rocket combination, the Space Launch System and Orion capsule, fly to the Moon by 2020 with crewed flights planned for 2023. NASA also issued in October a call for instruments and other technologies that can be flown on commercial landers.

"This is a venture capital kind of effort", he told reporters Thursday. Neither company is among those selected for CLPS eligibility. "But we have more providers".

The companies themselves made only a cameo appearance at the event, briefly appearing on stage but making no remarks.

Mars also looms large in America's space future.

The outline published by NASA to fulfill the Space Policy Directive, the "Exploration Campaign", focuses on three core domains for development: low Earth orbit, lunar orbit and surface, and Mars, with the option of other deep space objectives being integrated.

Masten's XL-1 lander has two payload bays with the capacity of delivering an estimated 220 lbs (100 kilograms) of mass to the lunar surface.

Near the other end of the corporate spectrum is Orbit Beyond, a small company with plans to develop a series of lunar landers.

The organization first formed to compete for the $20 million Google Lunar X Prize, but that competition ended without a victor in 2018. Team Indus, based in Bangalore, India, is not eligible itself for a CLPS award because of NASA requirements that companies be based in the United States, with development work done domestically.

Both Astrobotic Technology and Moon Express are on the list as well.

"We have been maturing our lander technology over the last 10 years in preparation for this day", Matthew Kuhns chief engineer with Masten Space Systems and SpaceFlight Insider contributor said when asked what this means for Masten.

Trump's administration was clear in its directive requesting that the NASA Administrator shall, 'Lead an innovative and sustainable program of exploration with commercial and global partners to enable human expansion across the solar system and to bring back to Earth new knowledge and opportunities.

"Going from 2009 and the Lunar Lander Challenge to today, we've been working for this thing to exist", he said of CLPS. "A lot of this is still developing, but the good news is that it's moving quickly".

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