NASA has revealed nine commercial partners who are eligible to take payloads to the Moon under the space agency’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services contracts. These companies can bid on the contracts from the space agency for launching science and technology payloads to the lunar surface, the first step toward NASA’s goal of eventually going to Mars.
The companies will be tasked with regularly shuttling payloads to the Moon, including scientific experiments and instruments. NASA has designated its Commercial Lunar Payload Services contract as indefinite delivery/quality; there’s a combined max contract value of $2.6 billion over the next decade.
In a statement today, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said:
Today’s announcement marks tangible progress in America’s return to the Moon’s surface to stay. 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.
Last month, NASA called for proposals on tech and instruments that may be sent to the Moon under these contracts — the proposal deadline is January 2019. The space agency expects that payloads may start launching for the Moon as early as next year, but that’s yet to be seen.
NASA has previously stated a goal of returning humans to the Moon, and these initial launches will help pave the way for that. The space agency says the early missions will usher in “important technological demonstrations” that help shape future lander development, as well as other systems that will help get astronauts back on the lunar surface.
The nine selected companies 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