The Blue Ghost lunar lander is now due to touch down on the Moon in 2023. Texas-based space launch company, Firefly Aerospace, recently announced that its spacecraft will be paired with a SpaceX Falcon rocket to make a journey to Mare Crisium, a dark portion of the moon’s surface.
Now that Firefly Aerospace has been awarded a $93.3 million contract with NASA, Blue Ghost will join other launches as part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services. The program, known as CLPS, is dedicated to transporting cargo and performing science experiments on the Moon. The U.S. space agency has been actively contracting with aerospace and tech firms in the private sector to begin planning and executing missions. The first of which is slated to launch as early as this year.
Blue Ghost will be used to carry nearly a dozen payloads weighing up to 330 pounds to the Moon’s Crisium basin. This cargo will then be used to perform a range of exploration procedures, including evaluation of the Moon’s mantle, the effects of radiation on computer chips in absence of a magnetic field, and the strength of GPS signals.
The pairing of the Blue Ghost spacecraft with the Falcon 9 rocket is meant as a fuel-saving measure, since this will enable Blue Ghost to reserve fuel that would otherwise be significantly expended during touchdown. SpaceX will continue to launch other landers as part of the CLPS program, including the Nova-C from Intuitive Machines and the XL-1 from Masten.
While Firefly Aerospace has not launched anything as of yet, the company is reportedly working on rockets for the launch of small satellites, including its Alpha rocket. Since the time the CLPS contract was awarded in February, the company has been continuing progress on the Blue Ghost program and conducting regular vision navigation test flights at its lunar landscape test site.
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ABOUT Firefly Aerospace
Firefly Aerospace Inc. (“Firefly”), headquartered in Austin, TX, is committed to providing economical and convenient access to space for small payloads through the design, manufacture and operation of reliable launch vehicles. The Firefly team addresses the market’s need for flexible access to space with a “simplest/soonest” approach to technology selection. Firefly launch vehicles embody the insights of a diverse design team and leverage commercial off–the–shelf (COTS) components, manufactured by suppliers across the United States, to reduce risk, maximize reliability and minimize development time.
Led by CEO Tom Markusic and a team of space industry veterans, Firefly is on track to deliver a US solution for the 1,000 to 8,000 kg payload class to LEO by early 2021 for a starting price of $15M. Firefly is committed to doing its part to restore U.S. leadership in the small to medium launch market, and is establishing international offices and strategic partnerships to effectively serve the global market
ABOUT Intuitive Machines
We are a pioneering space company opening new lunar economies to quench humanity’s thirst for knowledge through innovative solutions to the hardest problems. As a premier provider and supplier of space products and services, we are enabling sustainable exploration of the Moon, Mars and beyond.
We accelerate innovation through our “out-of-this-world” class systems and expertise in additive manufacturing, engines, Guidance, Navigation & Control (GNC), and communications. These systems enable rapid transit to the moon, and unsurpassed capability to the lunar surface.
Masten Space Systems was born in the Mojave Desert by our founder and CTO David Masten with one idea in mind: tear down the barriers to space.
David believed rockets should operate more like airplanes than ballistic missiles. That’s why we use reusable technologies, autonomous systems, and small operational teams so our rockets can launch, land, refuel, and fly again. This approach allows us to test often, iterate quickly, and reduce costs for each flight. Not to toot our own horn, but Masten has the most successful rocket-powered landings in the industry with more than 600 flights across five reusable rockets.
Now we’re applying our terrestrial rocket experience to lunar delivery missions. We’re using the agility of a startup and experience of big aerospace to ensure precision landings on the Moon and other celestial bodies in our solar system.