Picture courtesy of NASANASA
has awarded Texas-based Firefly Aerospace
approximately $93.3 million to deliver a suite of 10 science investigations and technology demonstrations to the Moon in 2023. The delivery, planned for Mare Crisium, a low-lying basin on the Moon’s near side, will investigate a variety of lunar surface conditions and resources. Such investigations will help prepare for the resumption of human missions to the lunar surface.
The award is part of the agency’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative, in which NASA is securing the service of commercial partners to quickly land science and technology payloads on the lunar surface.
The initiative is a key part of NASA’s Artemis program. Firefly Aerospace will be responsible for end-to-end delivery services, including payload integration, launch from Earth, landing on the Moon, and mission operations. This is the sixth award for lunar surface delivery under the CLPS initiative.
Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for science at NASA’s headquarters in Washington, said: “With this initiative, we seek to develop ways for new science and technology development utilising a service-based model. This allows US vendors to not only demonstrate their ability to safely deliver payloads to our celestial neighbour, but also expand this capability for others who want to take advantage of this cutting edge approach to explore the Moon.”
This is the first delivery awarded to Firefly Aerospace, which will provide the lunar delivery service using its Blue Ghost lander (pictured above), which the company designed and developed. Its facility in Cedar Park will house the integration of NASA and any non-NASA payloads, and also will serve as the company’s mission operations center for the 2023 delivery.
Chris Culbert, manager of the CLPS initiative at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, said: “The payloads we’re sending as part of this delivery service span across multiple areas, from investigating the lunar soil and testing a sample capture technology, to giving us information about the Moon’s thermal properties and magnetic field.”
Mare Crisium, where Firefly Aerospace’s Blue Ghost will land, is a more than 300-mile-wide basin where instruments will gather data to provide insight into the Moon’s regolith (loose, fragmented rock and soil) properties, geophysical characteristics, and the interaction of solar wind and Earth’s magnetic field.