Will the private sector be carrying the US flag back to the moon? Private companies like Max Polyakov’s Firefly Aerodrome look like contenders.
Why To Go With Private Sector?
NASA’s reduced funding has prompted them to focus on a private sector to reduce overhead costs in unpredictable projects. They aim to work with private companies under the CLPS (Commercial Lunar Payload Services) initiative to deliver their payloads to the lunar surface.
Max Polyakov’s Firefly Aerodrome is one of the nine chosen companies that NASA wants to help deliver cargo to the moon. Other private sector companies are:
The Draper Laboratory
Masten Space Systems
Deep Space Systems
Current NASA contracts
The three last listed companies have already been selected by NASA, and plans are in the pipeline for the other six earmarked companies. With a contract from NASA, Astrobotic aim to launch their Peregrine device with 14 NASA instruments in July 2021. This contract is estimated to earn Astrobotic $79.5 million.
Intuitive Machines have plans for Falcon 9 launch vehicle to deliver instruments for NASA to build its Nova-C landing station. This will set NASA $77 million back.
The third NASA choice fell to the OrbitBeyond, but this company withdrew from the competition because of internal difficulties.
Max Polyakov and the Beresheet spacecraft
Firefly Aerospace’s Max Polyakov aims to revive Beresheet spacecraft from Israel Aerospace. This company plans to refine Beresheet design and rename the new craft into Genesis. Aimed to launch in summer 2020, its launch has been delayed because of COVID-19-related challenges.
Masten Space Systems contract
Masten Space Systems should also get a NASA contract of $75.9 million to deliver several scientific tools to the moon. This company was founded in 2004 and has its base in Mojave, California. The details of their launch vehicle have yet to be disclosed, along with the vehicle name.
5 more CLPS contractors in the running for NASA
The remaining five companies that NASA has earmarked for payload deliveries to the Moon surface are:
Sierra Nevada Corporation
Along with the scheduled missions to take place in 2021, NASA has further plans for at least two CLPS initiatives for each following year.