NASA’s commercial lunar program ready to start flying in 2023

The NASA Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program is on the verge of flying its first missions to the lunar surface this year after delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and other factors. CLPS will deliver science to the lunar surface in support of the Artemis human lunar program and was announced in April 2018 with nine companies winning the right to bid on CLPS contracts that November.  The first three CLPS contracts for robotic lunar surface missions were awarded in May 2019, with the winners being Astrobotic Technology, Intuitive Machines, and OrbitBeyond. In November 2019, five additional companies became eligible to bid for these missions.  While OrbitBeyond asked to be released from its contract two months later, citing internal corporate issues, other companies have won CLPS contracts. Masten Space Systems won a contract in April 2020, though its future is to be determined after Masten was acquired by Astrobotic in September 2022. In February 2021, Firefly Aerospace won a CLPS contract to deliver 10 experiments to the lunar surface, while Draper Laboratories won a contract in July 2022. A fairing half being prepared for the first ULA Vulcan launch, which will carry Peregrine to the Moon (Credit: ULA) The…

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NASA’s commercial lunar program ready to start flying in 2023

Updated: January 10, 2023 — 9:27 pm