1004 GMT February 16, 2019
The companies, some which will develop small launch vehicles and robotic rovers over the next 10 years, will vie for a chunk of the $2.6-billion under the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services program, Reuters reported.
As soon as 2022, NASA expects to begin construction on a new space station laboratory that will orbit the Moon and act as a pit stop for missions to deeper parts of our Solar System, such as Mars.
“When we go to the Moon, we want to be one customer of many customers in a robust marketplace between the Earth and the Moon,” NASA administrator, Jim Bridenstine, said at a news briefing on Thursday.
“Lunar payloads could fly on these contracted missions as early as 2019,” NASA said in an earlier news release.
In addition to Lockheed Martin, NASA selected Draper, which developed computers for the Apollo missions, Astrobotic Technology Inc., Firefly Aerospace Inc., Moon Express and four others to potentially develop equipment for the program.
New crewed craft
In addition, NASA and its commercial partners, Boeing and SpaceX, are nearing the end of their program to develop new crew capsules that will act as taxis between Earth and the International Space Station (ISS).
Two final uncrewed test flights have been confirmed for next year, which will be followed by the first astronauts in the summer.
The US has been without the domestic means to launch its astronauts since 2011, when the Space Shuttle was retired. Since that time, it has been relying on Russian Soyuz craft to carry Americans into space.
In tandem, NASA has been developing capsules as part of the commercial crew program. That effort is reaching the final stages. On January 7, SpaceX will launch its first Crew Dragon spacecraft, which will be an uncrewed test flight to the ISS that will pave the way for the first crewed flight in June.
In March, Boeing will perform a similar test of its CST-100 Starliner in the run-up to a crewed launch in August. Before the manned flights, the two companies will perform launchpad and inflight-abort tests. NASA is also conducting a review of its workplace safety culture at the companies.