Last week, NASA named nine U.S. companies that will compete for funding under the space agency’s renewed long-term moon program, a private-public undertaking to develop technology that will explore the lunar surface.
The companies, some which will develop small launch vehicles and robotic rovers over the next 10 years, will vie for a chunk of the US$2.6 billion under the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services programme.
“We are building a domestic American capability to get back and forth to the surface of the moon,”
“When we go to the moon, we want to be one customer of many customers in a robust marketplace between the earth and the moon,”
– NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said at a news briefing.
NASA selected Astrobotic Technology, Deep Space Systems, Draper: Cambridge, Firefly Aerospace Inc, Intuitive Machines, Lockheed Martin Space, Masten Space Systems, Moon Express, and Orbit Beyond: Edison.
The companies selected range from a major aerospace corporation, Lockheed Martin, to little-known startups, and from companies that were longtime competitors in the now-expired Google Lunar X Prize for commercial lunar landers to others with no previous experience in designing such technology.
In the press release announcing the winning companies, NASA said the companies are eligible for up to $2.6 billion in awards over the next ten years. The agency didn’t disclose the maximum contract amounts for each company.
As soon as 2022, NASA expects to begin construction on a new space station laboratory that will orbit the moon and act as a pit stop for missions to deeper parts of our solar system, such as Mars.