NASA Chief, Jim Bridenstine, announced today that nine US companies are eligible to bid on delivery services to the surface of the moon through Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) contracts.
The companies will be able to put up bids on delivering science and technology payloads, including integration and operations that will launch from Earth and land on the surface of the Moon. NASA expects to be just one of many customers that will use the commercial landing services.
Leading up to these selections, NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) initiated the request for the proposals. Serving as the interface between NASA mission directorates, the scientific community, and other external stakeholders, the SMD is helping to develop a strategy to enable an integrated approach for both robotic and eventual human exploration in NASA’s Moon to Mars Exploration Campaign.
The Commercial Lunar Payload Services contracts will have a combined maximum value of $2.6 billion during the next ten years. The agency will look at several factors when comparing the bids, including price, schedule, and technical feasibility.
Back in October of this year, NASA issued a call for potential instruments and technologies for studying the Moon. Those proposals are due in January 2019. This will make lunar payload flight launches possible as early as 2019, as well. If all goes well, these early missions could enable important technology demonstrations that will allow for the development of future landers as well as other explorations systems that are needed for humans to return to the lunar surface. Ultimately, this will help prepare the agency to send astronauts to Mars.
“Today’s announcement marks tangible progress in America’s return to the Moon’s surface to stay,” said Bridenstine. “The innovation of America’s aerospace companies, wedded with our big goals in science and human exploration, are going to help us achieve amazing things on the Moon and feed forward to Mars.”
NASA may offer additional companies the opportunity to join the Commercial Lunar Payload Services through a contract process called on-ramping. They will do this by periodically re-examining the private market for new and emerging lunar delivery capabilities.
For now, the companies that have been selected are:
Astrobotic Technology, Inc: Pittsburgh
Deep Space Systems: Littleton, Colorado
Draper: Cambridge, Massachusetts
Firefly Aerospace, Inc: Cedar Park, Texas
Intuitive Machines, LLC: Houston
Lockheed Martin Space: Littleton, Colorado
Masten Space Systems, Inc: Mojave, California
Moon Express: Cape Canaveral, Florida
Orbit Beyond: Edison, New Jersey