NASA hopes that others will use these services as space travel becomes an endeavour accessible to private corporations.
NASA is set to unveil a set of new "Moon partnerships" with US companies in a press conference this afternoon.
Both companies have been contracted to fly astronauts to the International Space Station, but have suffered setbacks and delays as their work to develop their spacecraft.
"Today's announcement marks tangible progress in America's return to the Moon's surface to stay", said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. As part of that directive, companies can bid on contracts to develop services to deliver new lunar payloads, through NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services. CLPS is a multi-award contract worth $2.6 billion over the course of its 10 year performance period.
Masten Space Systems is developing a lunar lander called XL-1 that will be able to place up to 100 kilograms on the lunar surface starting in 2021.
While Lockheed has been involved with NASA for years, others like Astrobotic Technology and Masten Space Systems are relatively new. He said the lander will be able to deliver payloads of up to 100 kilograms. Some of these have already made successful voyages to the Moon and Mars. "But we have more providers". "We want multiple providers that are competing on cost and innovation".
Lockheed Martin's lander concept has been dubbed the McCandless Lunar Lander.
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"There isn't a direct connection to Orion, but this offering does pull from our planetary heritage overall".
Of the group, the only well-known name is aerospace giant Lockheed Martin, which has a long track record of success with NASA and built the InSight lander that touched down on Monday on Mars.
Prior to the announcement, Bridenstine spoke on The Hill TV's "Rising" program, emphasizing the objective of the Space Policy Directive's mission to build the capabilities of not only returning to the Moon, but stay as a sustained presence. McCandless was the first person to conduct an untethered spacewalk (on STS-41B).
NASA said that additional companies could be included at a later date. Draper is another long-time space contractor in the CLPS program.
The new commercial partners will compete for the opportunity to ferry those experiments to and from the moon. "Each are entrepreneurial pioneers of commercial space bringing key capabilities to the table, and we look forward to working with them in offering robotic expeditions to the Moon for science, commerce and exploration". The contracts that the companies can bid on include launching and landing services and payload delivery systems. (The agency has said that it intends for the first flight to occur next year.) "Services they provide NASA will cover payload integration and operations, launch and landing on the Moon".
For the new missions, the company said it will use its uncrewed lander, Artemis-7, to complete sample selection and return, contribute to plans for the eventual return of humans to the moon's surface. "The innovation of America's aerospace companies, wedded with our big goals in science and human exploration, are going to help us achieve unbelievable things on the Moon and feed forward to Mars".