NASA has picked nine companies, ranging from startups to aerospace giants, to be eligible for future contracts to deliver payloads to the surface of the moon, but with no guarantee of business for any of them.
Draper will lead a team, including three other companies, to design, manufacture and launch a lunar lander - dubbed "Artemis-7" - to the moon. In fact, 2023 is the same year NASA plans to launch EM-2 around the moon.
"We want to establish and open architecture capability-of data, communications, avionics, docking-to go from the Earth to the moon over and over again so any individual who can attract the capital, or company, could access it", said Bridenstine. See larger. [Image: NASA] The companies will work in tandem with ongoing NASA lunar exploration. This image of the moon was taken above Newfoundland from the International Space Station. In 2017, Moon Express introduced its MX family of modular, scalable robotic exploration vehicles created to collapse the cost of access to the Moon and other deep space destinations.
Draper's lunar lander
Payloads, or the instruments and pieces of technology, could fly as early as 2019.
If SpaceX's or Blue Origin's rockets come online, one NASA executive said the agency would "eventually retire" SLS.
"Working with USA companies is the next step to achieving long-term scientific study and human exploration of the moon and Mars", NASA said in a. Bridenstine insisted that this time things would be different. NASA wants to return to the moon to make scientific discoveries, find resources and establish an off-Earth presence for humans.
While some of the companies are relatively new, others, like Draper, have been involved with the US space program for decades.
Bridenstine confirmed he has ordered a safety review of NASA's contractors SpaceX and Boeing after Musk smoked, but said that was always the plan. This new plan hopes to allow for a diverse array of customers send their payloads to the Moon.
While President Barack Obama told NASA to focus on sending astronauts to Mars, largely bypassing the moon, the Trump administration has made the moon a priority, although astronauts would likely not arrive until late in the 2020s.