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NASA expands the commercial lunar landing program by five companies

WASHINGTON – NASA announced on November 18 that it is adding five companies to a contract for commercial deliveries of payloads to the lunar surface. This group ranges from small businesses to Blue Origin and SpaceX.

NASA said the five companies – Blue Origin, Ceres Robotics, Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), SpaceX and Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems – were selected to join the nine companies with Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) contracts , All 14 companies are now eligible to bid for future payload shipments to the lunar surface.

This "ramp" to CLPS was specifically designed to help companies with the ability to transport heavier payloads to the surface of the Moon. These include NASA's Volatile Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) mission, a rover NASA scheduled to fly in 2022 to search for evidence of water ice at the south pole of the Moon.

"Actually, we wanted to do this a little later, but we saw the need to speed this up," said Steve Clarke, associate administrator for exploration at NASA's Scientific Missions Directorate, in a conference call with reporters about this ramp , The larger countries could supply tools that astronauts need in advance of their land emissions, in addition to providing scientific payloads.

By far the largest lander of the newcomers comes from SpaceX, which offers the re-launch of its spaceship vehicle. Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX President and Chief Operating Officer, said Starhip will be able to bring up to 1

00 tonnes of cargo to the lunar surface and return an unspecified amount back to Earth.

"We believe this is so. A really great program. It reminds us a bit of the COTS program, "said Shotwell, referring to NASA's efforts to commercial orbital transport services that funded the development of SpaceX's commercial cargo capabilities.

Shotwell said that Starship lunar emissions in 2022 could only start cargo, but she said she could serve as a "nice springboard" for future missions with crew. She did not announce a date for missions with crew, but said SpaceX would fly Starship "a lot" before flying missions with people aboard.

  Tyvak Lander
Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems plans to use its experience with small satellites for its small lunar countries. Credit: Tyvak

Blue Origin will offer NASA the Blue Moon Lander, which was launched in May, and will be able to carry several tons of cargo to the lunar surface. "It has a large payload capacity, the ability to survive the moonlit night, and a very large, open payload deck," said Brent Sherwood, vice president of advanced development programs at Blue Origin. Later, he declined to specify when the lander would be ready for CLPS missions, saying it depended on the details of each CLPS task order.

NASA also added smaller countries to the CLPS agreement. "Our company is in an excellent position not only to offer smaller payloads to the Moon as we build our own satellite systems," said John Roth, vice president of business development at SNC. Roth said the company could accommodate larger payloads with technologies developed for its Dream Chaser vehicle, but did not disclose how much payload the company could carry. SNC could launch land emissions in 2022, he said.

Michael Sims, CEO of Ceres Robotics, said his company's CLPS award is a sign that small businesses like him are playing a role in NASA's broader plans. "The exploration of space and especially man as a multiplanet requires a whole ecosystem of business," he said. "Small player is agility and creativity that enriches the mix." He said the lander of his company should be available for missions starting in 2023.

Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems is best known as a manufacturer of Kleinsatz. According to Marco Villa, the company's chief operating officer, Tyvak would use this experience in his lunar lands. "We will start with something smaller," he said. "Our flexibility and scalability will enable us to meet increasingly complex tasks in the near future." He declined to say when the lander of his company would be ready.

The five companies, selected from eight, submitted proposals for this ramp to join the original nine CLPS companies selected by NASA nearly a year ago: Astrobotic, Deep Space Systems, Draper, Firefly Aerospace, Intuitive Machines, Lockheed Martin, Masts Space Systems, Moon Express and OrbitBeyond. In May, NASA awarded contracts to Astrobotic, Intuitive Machines and OrbitBeyond for lunar landing emissions, but OrbitBeyond canceled its assignment two months later, citing internal business issues.

Clarke said NASA is currently developing a new order for companies that should do so "Sometime soon" for the CLPS companies to bid and for the VIPER rover. The Agency works separately on a call for proposals for scientific instruments to be used for these missions with the aim of carrying out two "deliveries" of payloads to the lunar surface each year.

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