NASA picks first commercial ventures to deliver scientific payloads to the moon

NASA picks first commercial ventures to deliver scientific payloads to the moon

They will be flying five payloads to Oceanus Procellarum, a "scientifically intriguing" (whatever that means) dark spot on the Moon's surface, by July 2021.

The announcement comes as NASA is moving full steam ahead toward its goal of returning humans to the moon in the next five years under a program called Artemis and a sustainable presence there by 2028.

NASA has selected three commercial partners that will supply lunar landers to carrying agency payloads to the Moon.

NASA said it will decide exactly which experiments to send on the landers by the end of summer 2019. They say they will send their landers to the moon in 2020 and 2021.

Technology site ArsTechnica reports that the American space agency Nasa has signed an agreement with Maxar Technologies to build the first module for the Lunar Gateway, a space station to be placed in orbit around the moon.


Astrobotic, Intuitive Machines and Orbit Beyond will each carry a selection of NASA payloads that are intended either to address scientific questions about the moon or to test new technology that engineers are developing to advance space exploration.

As part of the newly named Artemis program, the agency is seeking global cooperation while encouraging increased private sector development through the CLPS program.

The four-legged Peregrine lander features advanced, radiation-hardened avionics, autonomous hazard avoidance systems and multiple shelves and mounting platforms for payload attachment, including small rovers that can be lowered to the surface.

"Today is a historic day for Astrobotic and the commercial lunar market", Astrobotic CEO John Thornton said in a statement.

The aerospace company proposed to fly the 14 payloads to a large crater on the near side of the moon.


Two of the companies, Intuitive Machines and Orbit Beyond, plan to launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, while Astrobiotic has yet to decide which launch company it will use.

Astrobotic, a Pittsburgh-based company that has been awarded $79.5 million.

Each company has developed lunar landers of different sizes and shapes: one is tall, and the other two are more compact.

The potential payloads include instruments that will conduct new lunar science, pinpoint lander position, measure the lunar radiation environment, assess how lander and astronaut activity affects the Moon, and assist with navigation precision, among other capabilities.


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