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NASA partnered with SpaceX, Blue Origin and more to send large payloads to the moon

In its ongoing effort to ship cargo – and possibly humans – to the lunar surface, NASA has announced five new partnerships with commercial space companies that have designed robotic troops that can carry large payloads to the moon. The additions include some well-known heavyweights in the industry, such as SpaceX, Blue Origin and Sierra Nevada Corporation, which are already partnering with NASA for other projects.

Newcomers will join an already formed pool of nine companies that are part of the NASA New CLPS Award, which is a commercial payload service for the lunar payload. The goal is to have many different options for transporting scientific instruments and cargo to the moon as NASA tries to send people back to the moon by 2024.

being selected as part of the CLPS program does not guarantee every NASA company contract to send its spacecraft to the moon. It just means that NASA will consider using these companies if and when it wants to send cargoes or scientific instruments to the lunar surface. NASA will call for opportunities the agency wants, and companies will bid to allow NASA's cargo to be transported to the moon. In May, NASA selected three companies from its original set of participants ̵

1; Astrobotic, Intuitive Machines and Orbit Beyond – to send robotic troops to the moon in the early 2020s, with each spacecraft carrying different payloads. Only two of these companies are continuing to achieve this, as Orbit Beyond has stated that it will not be able to meet its 2020 deadline.

Sierra Nevada Corporation farmer's artistic rendering
Image: SNC

Companies added today – SpaceX, Blue Origin, Sierra Nevada Corporation, Ceres Robotics, Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems Inc. – all promise to transport much heavier payloads than what the original nine CLPS companies say they can carry. The original nine companies were supposed to be able to carry up to 22 pounds (10 kilograms) to the moon's surface, but some of these new suppliers said they would eventually be able to carry a few tons to the moon. "We need and have seen the need to include some additional vendors that have improved landing capabilities," said Steve Clark, NASA's associate research administrator at the NASA Science Mission Directorate, during a press conference announcing new entrants to CLPS. "This is based on our goals – the goals of the agency – to get to the moon as quickly as possible, both scientifically and humanly."

Thanks to Vice President Mike Pence's challenge, NASA is trying to send people back to the moon within the next four years. As the agency prepares to meet this challenge, NASA wants to send technologies to the moon to explore the lunar environment in greater depth, as well as to demonstrate technologies that can be used for future human missions. NASA also wants to send a new moon rover called VIPER, which will travel to the lunar south pole and find potential water ice that may be lurking there. Engineers are interested in using this water ice as a resource for future human missions.

For Blue Origin, the company is offering its Blue Moon landing design, which founder Jeff Bezos first unveiled in May. SpaceX, meanwhile, is offering its future Starship spacecraft, which the company is building on its test sites in Boca Chica, Texas and Cape Canaveral, Florida. SpaceX president Guinee Shotwell says Starship, which is designed to fly from the moon after landing on it, can bring up to 100 metric tons to the moon's surface.

Artistic rendering of Blue Origin of Blue Origin on the Moon's surface
Image: Blue Origin

Some companies are quite ambitious with their timing, claiming that they will be able to send their spacecraft to the moon within the next few years. Ceres Robotics aims to land by 2023 while SNC says it will be ready by 2022. SpaceX, which offers the largest lander of all five companies, says it is attempting to land a Starship on the load version Moon by 2022 "A star ship now, the early missions we are very focused on cargo – both satellite delivery to orbit and science to the surface of the moon," Shotwell said during a news conference today. The company will then focus on getting people on board with Starship.

None of these five companies have built or launched their vehicles yet, so their timelines are likely to be delayed and it is not yet clear exactly which rockets will take these. vehicles in space. SpaceX is expected to launch its Starship on its own future Super Heavy rocket, while the landing of Blue Origin will fly over the company's future Glen Glenn rocket. Details of the other cargo spacecraft have not yet been finalized, and it is not yet known how NASA plans to use these companies in the coming years.

Meanwhile, NASA is still looking for a land that will bring humans to the surface of the moon. The Agency has recently published a call for proposals with final proposals due by November 1st. The solution to this important piece of technology is to come in the coming months.

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