Private companies’ ambitions in space have taken a step forward with SpaceX, Blue Origin and three other US companies joining NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program to develop a marketplace to deliver payloads to the Moon, bringing the overall total number of commercial players to 14.
The CLPS initiative empowers firms to deliver payloads using their own landing craft to the lunar surface on NASA’s behalf, enabling research to be conducted on the Moon. It will pave the way for the next humans to walk on the Moon by 2024, as part of NASA’s Artemis program. The program enables the Moon to be used as a proving ground to allow for future human exploration of Mars.
Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the Science Administration Directorate at NASA HQ, said the “initiative was designed to leverage the expertise and innovation of private industry to get to the Moon quickly.”
The initiative will allow NASA to do “much more, sooner and for less cost” than they previously had been able to do with their own launch capabilities, deputy associate director for exploration at NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Steve Clarke, explained.
CLPS contracts carry a value of $2.6 billion until 2028. Alongside SpaceX and Blue Origin, the newly added participants are Ceres Robotics, Sierra Nevada Corp. and Tvyak Nano-Satellite Systems.
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