NASA has awarded $ 93.3 million to Firefly Aerospace for taking a lunar lander module full of experiments on the lunar surface. While the company is not launching itself, it will provide more spacecraft “Blue Ghost” lander For the 2023 mission.
The space agency created the award as part of its ongoing commercial lunar payload services, under which several other non-major space companies have been selected for similar work: Blue Origin, Astrobiotic, Masten and so on.
This special contract was first promoted in September for its CLPS partners, which would have submitted bids for the project; Jugnu clearly took the day.
“We are another CLPS provider that has won its first work order award,” said NASA Associate Administrator Thomas Zurbuchen. Announced the contract in an announcement. The past few years have seen many such firsts, such as NASA rapidly adopting the commercial sector in providing everything from launch services to satellite and spacecraft construction.
This is not Jugnu’s first command from NASA, however: its national security subsidiary Jugnu Black (ominous) will launch two cubes for the Venture Class launch service Demo-2 mission. But it is bigger and more complex by a large margin (not to mention more expensive).
This will be the first lunar trip for Jugnu’s Blue Ghost Lander, which has been working on the moon in anticipation of renewed interest over the years. It will host 10 scientific payloads, which NASA describes here, Including a new laser reflector array and an experimental radiation-tolerant computer. There is a lot to be loaded, but the Blue Ghost should have 50kg of space left for anyone else who wants to ride the moon.
Everything is going on the mare chrysium, a basin near the “light” or the moon, where they are expected to contribute valuable observations and experiments to inform future visits and habitats on the moon.
Firefly will also provide the spacecraft that will take the lander into lunar space, and will be responsible for removing it from Earth for the first time – the company told me they are evaluating options for this. By then there should be plenty of rides to choose from to roll around 2023, and in fact Jugnu’s own Alpha launch vehicle could still fly by, though it is not committed to lunar insertion orbit missions today. The company plans to have its first Alpha flight in March.