Nine US companies, including Lockheed Martin Corp., have been selected to compete for financing under NASA’s revitalised long-standing moon programme, a private–public mission to produce technology that would examine the lunar surface.
NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services effort is looking to award $2.6 billion in contracts to a few of companies over the next decade that will build tiny launch robotic rovers and vehicles.
NASA plans to begin construction on a new space station lab in 2022 that will orbit the moon and serve as a staging point for missions to farther reaches of our solar system, such as Mars. According to the NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine, “When we arrive at the moon, we hope to be one client among many clients in a strong market between the Moon and Earth.”
The space agency had previously indicated that “Lunar payloads could soar on these contracted operations as early as 2019.” There are five other companies that the space agency has selected to work on the initiative, in addition to Lockheed Martin: Draper, who built PCs for the Apollo missions; Moon Express; Firefly Aerospace Inc; and Astrobotic Technology Inc.
China also revealed plans for a heavy-lift launch vehicle that will be used to transport a crewed spacecraft of the next generation and provide power for human space missions beyond low Earth orbit. The principal contractor for China’s space programme, the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT), is responsible for developing the vehicle’s design.
According to Hu Xiaojun of the China Advanced Research Projects (CALT) at the Zhuhai Airshow, the latest launch vehicle will be used for future crewed spaceflights that include lunar missions.