WASHINGTON – NASA announced on November 18 that it was adding five companies to a contract for commercial delivery of payloads on the surface of the moon, a group that ranges from small-scale ventures to Blue Origin and SpaceX.
NASA has stated five companies – Blue Origin, Ceres Robotics, Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), SpaceX and Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems – have been selected to join nine companies with Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) trade agreements. All 14 companies are now eligible to bid for future deliveries of payloads to the lunar surface.
This CLPS "ramp" was created specifically to attract companies with the ability to carry larger payloads to the moon's surface. This includes NASA's Mission for Volatile Polar Research (VIPER), a NASA rover planned to fly in 2022 to look for evidence of water ice at the south pole of the moon.
"We actually wanted to do this a little bit later, but we saw the need to speed it up," Steve Clark, NASA's associate research assistant at the NASA Science Mission Directorate, said about it in a teleconference with reporters. According to him, larger farmers could supply the tools needed for astronauts before their landing missions, in addition to delivering science payloads.
The largest farmer, far from new entrants, is SpaceX, which offered its reusable Starship vehicle launch. Guinea Shotwell, president and chief operating officer of SpaceX, said Starhip would be able to deliver up to 1
"We think it's a really neat program. It reminds us a little of the COTS program, "says Shotwell, referring to NASA's efforts in commercial orbital transportation services, which funded the development of SpaceX's commercial capability.
Shotwell stated that the moon missions on Starhip ships could begin in 2022. Such missions would only be landed, but she said it could serve as a "nice step" for later missions. She did not set a date for missions, but said SpaceX would fly Starship "a lot" before flying any missions with people aboard. Tyvak Katsatel