Private Companies to Make Next Moon Landing

Elon Musk smoking weed

NASA looks to outsource Moon delivery services

The nine companies now eligible to bid on CLPS are: Astrobotic Technology Inc., Deep Space Systems, Draper, Firefly Aerospace Inc., Intuitive Machines LLC., Lockheed Martin Space, Masten Space Systems Inc., Moon Express and Orbit Beyond.

NASA announced Thursday that it had selected nine companies that will compete for billions of dollars in contracts to take small payloads for the agency to the surface of the moon.

Commercial maintenance program lunar payloads (also known as CLPS) based on the space policy Directive 1, signed by President Donald trump in December of previous year. Although not tied to the aerospace giant's human-rated spacecraft, the company noted its experience with developing vehicles similar to this new lander.

NASA has not given any specifics for the bidding process, other than to say it will "look at a number of factors when comparing the bids, such as technical feasibility, price and schedule". It is an experimental part of the agency's plan for Americans to orbit the Moon starting in 2023, and land astronauts on the surface no later than the late 2020s.

However, NASA may soon find itself in a unusual position, since the two private launch systems may beat SLS back to the moon - and one might be the first to send people to Mars.

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In this approach, NASA would just be one of many customers, Bridenstine said.

Soon after the mandate was presented, NASA submitted a plan to Congress called the National Space Exploration Campaign, echoing Trump's remarks.

The first orbital test flights of Crew Dragon and Starliner are now targeted for early next year, with crewed demo missions to follow in mid-2019.

One of the nine companies will be tasked with delivering science and technology payloads to the surface of the Moon for NASA.

NASA has revealed the names of nine U.S. companies that now will join it in its journey to the Moon.

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Mr Musk's SpaceX is one of two firms contracted to build a shuttle that will fly U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station from American territory - something that was ended in 2011.

Jim Bridenstine, NASA administrator, said NASA will buy the service and let private industry work out the details on getting to the moon. Bridenstine insisted that this time things would be different.

Using commercial services, NASA will be able to "accelerate a robotic return to the moon, with upcoming missions targeted for two to three years earlier than previously planned".

The ultimate goal of Commercial Crew is to revive United States spaceflight capabilities that the agency lost when it retired the space shuttle fleet in 2011.

NASA sees this as a step toward long-term study and human exploration of the moon - and eventually Mars. It also plans to construct a station in orbit around the moon called the Gateway.

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