Will NASA funding help struggling lunar lander companies get to the moon?

NASA is asking for Lunar Surface Instrument and Technology Payloads to be placed onto commercial lunar landers. NASA is also supporting commercially developed small lunar landers.

NASA will pick 8 to 12 experiments in 2019 for launch no earlier than 2020, with an overall budget of between $24 and 36 million in the first year of the program. The payload mass must be less than 15 kilograms and use have continuous power needs of 8 watts or less.

Several Lunar Lander missions in 2019 and 2020

There are several lunar landers in development. Lunar lander companies and teams were previously incentivized by the Google Lunar XPrize. No company sent a mission to the moon in time to win the Lunar XPrize.

Five private companies have solidified launch contracts and are hoping to land on the surface of the Moon within the next two years.

Moon Express

In October, 2018, Moon Express announced they had raised a $2.5 million bridge round led by Miami-based Minerva Capital Group. They also raised $10 million of a planned $20 million Series B round, led by an undisclosed lead investor.

Moon Express Chief Executive Bob Richards said that the funding will support redevelopment of Launch Complex (LC) 17 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, a former Delta 2 launch site.

Moon Express is targeting July 2020 for a first mission. They booked several launches on Rocket Lab’s Electron.

Here is a video inside the Rocket Lab factory.

Moon Express partnered with NASA under its Lunar CATALYST Program and in 2016 became the first commercial space company to receive U.S. federal government authorization for a private lunar mission. Moon Express has developed a family of innovative robotic exploration spacecraft designed to collapse the cost of access to the Moon and other deep space destinations, with regular flights to the Moon planned to begin in 2020.

Moon Express has legal problems with a former partner, Intuitive Machines. There was a $4.1 million verdict against Moon Express early in 2018. There is a pending motion for a mistrial.

Astrobotic

Astrobotic is a startup that is selling space on its lunar lander for $1.2 million per kilogram. 11 groups from six different nations have agreed to fly instruments on the Peregrine’s first flight. They are targeting mid-2020. Astrobotic is still looking for more funding.

In 2014, Astrobotic became the first commercial company to use visual terrain-relative navigation (TRN) and LIDAR hazard detection to guide a rocket-propelled suborbital reusable launch vehicle, Masten’s Xombie, to a safe landing site in flight.

The Astrobotic Virtual Orbital Imager (AVOI) is a physically accurate planetary renderer to assist in precision landing and path planning missions. This provides highly detailed simulations of landing and exploration.

Astrobotic has developed custom designs, sensing, and rovers for planetary surface activities such as exploration, site preparation, and resource extraction. Astrobotic developed Polaris as an excavation vehicle that could serve as a robotic precursor to future human planetary colonization efforts by preparing terrain and mining ice and other volatiles.

Three international companies will not get NASA support.

SpaceIL

Israel-based SpaceIL has spent about $95 million and plans to fly to the moon in 2019 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 mission.

The Japanese team Hakuto has $90 million

The Japanese team Hakuto had already built its lunar rover, Sorato. They raised more than $90 million in funding. They were looking to launch with an Indian company TeamIndus. TeamIndus lost support from the Indian Space Agency.

45 thoughts on “Will NASA funding help struggling lunar lander companies get to the moon?”

  1. OK either that humanoid figure standing next to the Peregrine is 9 feet tall…. or someone botched the powerpoint. Basic math anyone? Not exactly inspiring confidence at this point.

    Reply
  2. OK either that humanoid figure standing next to the Peregrine is 9 feet tall…. or someone botched the powerpoint. Basic math anyone? Not exactly inspiring confidence at this point.

    Reply
  3. I think that the payload request is a step toward doing that. This is by its nature going to be an iterative process. NASA starts out with very rough lander specs, then asks the payload folks to propose things that sorta-kinda fit if the following modifications were made, which then feeds back to the lander companies, and so on. This is one of the things that’s nice about having NASA in the loop for lunar missions again: They’re an honest broker that both the lander and payload people can count on to follow through getting the requirements firmed up. If you had n lander folks all talking to m payload folks, things would take a lot longer, and the interchangeability between landers and payloads would be more more restricted.

    Reply
  4. NASA should publicize a standard for lander-package mass, and shape and the shape of the volume they will occupy, maximum gee force, and vibration, a electrical power connector standard, the lunar orbit they will be released in, acceptable propellants, and likely other parameters I’ve not thought of, design a buss to carry them to lunar orbit from LEO, and return empty to the ISS. The bus should be sized to be launched full of landers, but with no fuel, by a falcon heavy, recovering all boosters. Fueling for every round trip at the ISS with what ever fuel it uses, and being loaded with a fresh bunch of landers. This program would stimulate innovation in landers, and rovers, as well as test the innovations. It would map hell out of Luna, a useful thing. It would build operational experience with reusable, perhaps even reconfigurable exploration vessels, that can take on new instruments, and be refueled for many missions, at a relatively low cost, and short lead time.

    Reply
  5. Maybe the picture got fixed since you posted. It now shows 1.5m at about shoulder height, which is near average for a N. American male.

    Reply
  6. I think that the payload request is a step toward doing that. This is by its nature going to be an iterative process. NASA starts out with very rough lander specs then asks the payload folks to propose things that sorta-kinda fit if the following modifications were made which then feeds back to the lander companies and so on.This is one of the things that’s nice about having NASA in the loop for lunar missions again: They’re an honest broker that both the lander and payload people can count on to follow through getting the requirements firmed up. If you had n lander folks all talking to m payload folks things would take a lot longer and the interchangeability between landers and payloads would be more more restricted.

    Reply
  7. NASA should publicize a standard for lander-package mass and shape and the shape of the volume they will occupy maximum gee force and vibration a electrical power connector standard the lunar orbit they will be released in acceptable propellants and likely other parameters I’ve not thought of design a buss to carry them to lunar orbit from LEO and return empty to the ISS. The bus should be sized to be launched full of landers but with no fuel by a falcon heavy recovering all boosters. Fueling for every round trip at the ISS with what ever fuel it uses and being loaded with a fresh bunch of landers.This program would stimulate innovation in landers and rovers as well as test the innovations. It would map hell out of Luna a useful thing. It would build operational experience with reusable perhaps even reconfigurable exploration vessels that can take on new instruments and be refueled for many missions at a relatively low cost and short lead time.

    Reply
  8. Maybe the picture got fixed since you posted.It now shows 1.5m at about shoulder height which is near average for a N. American male.

    Reply
  9. No it doesn’t. The vertical line marked 1.5m extends from the level of the top of the humans feet to about their mid chest. The horizontal 2.5 m line is at the level of their shoulder, but that’s a horizontal measurement. The fundamental issue is that different people from different backgrounds have different standards as to how to draw a dimensional measure.

    Reply
  10. There is a vertical line that is labelled 1.5m. If you compare the height of that vertical line to the human then yes, the human is major league basketballer at least. The problem isn’t in the math, it’s the vertical line is drawn too short. If the vertical line was drawn to match the depicted height of the lander then it works out. It isn’t helped by the human being positioned hovering in mid air (or mid vacuum I guess) relative to the plane that the lander is sitting on.

    Reply
  11. At first glance I can see that 2.5 m could be construed as the height (along a “ceiling” line), instead of demonstrating the width of the lander.

    Reply
  12. No it doesn’t. The vertical line marked 1.5m extends from the level of the top of the humans feet to about their mid chest.The horizontal 2.5 m line is at the level of their shoulder but that’s a horizontal measurement.The fundamental issue is that different people from different backgrounds have different standards as to how to draw a dimensional measure.

    Reply
  13. There is a vertical line that is labelled 1.5m. If you compare the height of that vertical line to the human then yes the human is major league basketballer at least.The problem isn’t in the math it’s the vertical line is drawn too short. If the vertical line was drawn to match the depicted height of the lander then it works out.It isn’t helped by the human being positioned hovering in mid air (or mid vacuum I guess) relative to the plane that the lander is sitting on.

    Reply
  14. At first glance I can see that 2.5 m could be construed as the height (along a ceiling”” line)”””” instead of demonstrating the width of the lander.”””

    Reply
  15. I kind of wonder… Are all of the Moonshot efforts (wo)manned by beautiful middle aged babes (“Assembly of the spacecraft begins…”) engineering the next vision of the future? I’m referring to the video adverts that are linked in above. Got nothing against babes-in-Charge. Nothing. But my experience has been that the really good people — equally male and female — aren’t “GQ” or Vanity Fair ‘esque as represented by the adverising models. They’re geeky types, having long eschewed serums and dermatological peels for practical eyeglasses and economical haircuts. ________________________________________ Well, no matter. It was just a musing. Of stereotypes. ________________________________________ I think this: if NASA is in the business of refactoring the pölïtical mandate of the Executive and Legislative branches of our government into “marching orders” for its internal research-and-development teams as well as the armies of 3rd party developers outside, then that is what they need to get on doing. As another poster ventured, “lay out the parameters for the lander-craft”. Do it. Just do it. The phases-of-nominal operation are fairly easy to characterize. [1] Trajectory-to-Moon [2] A lander, landing [3] Moon walks, exploration, EVAs. [4] Station tending [5] Return rom Luna to orbit [6] Consolidation of people, evidence, to returnto earth. [7] Return to Earth (I didn’t include reëntry, landing, recovery) Just as in the Apollo missions, recognition of the tradeoffs between carried fuel and the ability to shuck away some of the empty cantainer-and-rocket mass for having stages instead is important. Ultimately, even for the most aggressive reëntry, there is a mass budgt. So, PUBLISH THE MASS BUDGET. That’ll inspire hundreds, thousands of groups to take on the parts. To design stuff. Essentially “free labor” because the “prize” is so valuable. Just saying, GoatGuy

    Reply
  16. I kind of wonder…Are all of the Moonshot efforts (wo)manned by beautiful middle aged babes (Assembly of the spacecraft begins…””) engineering the next vision of the future? I’m referring to the video adverts that are linked in above. Got nothing against babes-in-Charge. Nothing. But my experience has been that the really good people — equally male and female — aren’t “”””GQ”””” or Vanity Fair ‘esque as represented by the adverising models. They’re geeky types”” having long eschewed serums and dermatological peels for practical eyeglasses and economical haircuts. ________________________________________Well no matter. It was just a musing. Of stereotypes.________________________________________I think this: if NASA is in the business of refactoring the pölïtical mandate of the Executive and Legislative branches of our government into “marching orders” for its internal research-and-development teams as well as the armies of 3rd party developers outside then that is what they need to get on doing. As another poster ventured “lay out the parameters for the lander-craft”. Do it.Just do it.The phases-of-nominal operation are fairly easy to characterize. [1] Trajectory-to-Moon[2] A lander landing[3] Moon walks exploration EVAs.[4] Station tending[5] Return rom Luna to orbit[6] Consolidation of people evidence to returnto earth.[7] Return to Earth (I didn’t include reëntry landing recovery)Just as in the Apollo missions recognition of the tradeoffs between carried fuel and the ability to shuck away some of the empty cantainer-and-rocket mass for having stages instead is important. Ultimately even for the most aggressive reëntry there is a mass budgt. So PUBLISH THE MASS BUDGET.That’ll inspire hundreds”” thousands of groups to take on the parts. To design stuff. Essentially “”””free labor”””” because the “”””prize”””” is so valuable. Just saying””””GoatGuy”””””””

    Reply
  17. I kind of wonder… Are all of the Moonshot efforts (wo)manned by beautiful middle aged babes (“Assembly of the spacecraft begins…”) engineering the next vision of the future? I’m referring to the video adverts that are linked in above. Got nothing against babes-in-Charge. Nothing. But my experience has been that the really good people — equally male and female — aren’t “GQ” or Vanity Fair ‘esque as represented by the adverising models. They’re geeky types, having long eschewed serums and dermatological peels for practical eyeglasses and economical haircuts. ________________________________________ Well, no matter. It was just a musing. Of stereotypes. ________________________________________ I think this: if NASA is in the business of refactoring the pölïtical mandate of the Executive and Legislative branches of our government into “marching orders” for its internal research-and-development teams as well as the armies of 3rd party developers outside, then that is what they need to get on doing. As another poster ventured, “lay out the parameters for the lander-craft”. Do it. Just do it. The phases-of-nominal operation are fairly easy to characterize. [1] Trajectory-to-Moon [2] A lander, landing [3] Moon walks, exploration, EVAs. [4] Station tending [5] Return rom Luna to orbit [6] Consolidation of people, evidence, to returnto earth. [7] Return to Earth (I didn’t include reëntry, landing, recovery) Just as in the Apollo missions, recognition of the tradeoffs between carried fuel and the ability to shuck away some of the empty cantainer-and-rocket mass for having stages instead is important. Ultimately, even for the most aggressive reëntry, there is a mass budgt. So, PUBLISH THE MASS BUDGET. That’ll inspire hundreds, thousands of groups to take on the parts. To design stuff. Essentially “free labor” because the “prize” is so valuable. Just saying, GoatGuy

    Reply
  18. I kind of wonder…Are all of the Moonshot efforts (wo)manned by beautiful middle aged babes (Assembly of the spacecraft begins…””) engineering the next vision of the future? I’m referring to the video adverts that are linked in above. Got nothing against babes-in-Charge. Nothing. But my experience has been that the really good people — equally male and female — aren’t “”””GQ”””” or Vanity Fair ‘esque as represented by the adverising models. They’re geeky types”” having long eschewed serums and dermatological peels for practical eyeglasses and economical haircuts. ________________________________________Well no matter. It was just a musing. Of stereotypes.________________________________________I think this: if NASA is in the business of refactoring the pölïtical mandate of the Executive and Legislative branches of our government into “marching orders” for its internal research-and-development teams as well as the armies of 3rd party developers outside then that is what they need to get on doing. As another poster ventured “lay out the parameters for the lander-craft”. Do it.Just do it.The phases-of-nominal operation are fairly easy to characterize. [1] Trajectory-to-Moon[2] A lander landing[3] Moon walks exploration EVAs.[4] Station tending[5] Return rom Luna to orbit[6] Consolidation of people evidence to returnto earth.[7] Return to Earth (I didn’t include reëntry landing recovery)Just as in the Apollo missions recognition of the tradeoffs between carried fuel and the ability to shuck away some of the empty cantainer-and-rocket mass for having stages instead is important. Ultimately even for the most aggressive reëntry there is a mass budgt. So PUBLISH THE MASS BUDGET.That’ll inspire hundreds”” thousands of groups to take on the parts. To design stuff. Essentially “”””free labor”””” because the “”””prize”””” is so valuable. Just saying””””GoatGuy”””””””

    Reply
  19. I kind of wonder…

    Are all of the Moonshot efforts (wo)manned by beautiful middle aged babes (“Assembly of the spacecraft begins…”) engineering the next vision of the future? I’m referring to the video adverts that are linked in above.

    Got nothing against babes-in-Charge.
    Nothing.

    But my experience has been that the really good people — equally male and female — aren’t “GQ” or Vanity Fair ‘esque as represented by the adverising models. They’re geeky types, having long eschewed serums and dermatological peels for practical eyeglasses and economical haircuts.
    ________________________________________

    Well, no matter. It was just a musing. Of stereotypes.
    ________________________________________

    I think this: if NASA is in the business of refactoring the pölïtical mandate of the Executive and Legislative branches of our government into “marching orders” for its internal research-and-development teams as well as the armies of 3rd party developers outside, then that is what they need to get on doing.

    As another poster ventured, “lay out the parameters for the lander-craft”.

    Do it.
    Just do it.

    The phases-of-nominal operation are fairly easy to characterize.

    [1] Trajectory-to-Moon
    [2] A lander, landing
    [3] Moon walks, exploration, EVAs.
    [4] Station tending
    [5] Return rom Luna to orbit
    [6] Consolidation of people, evidence, to returnto earth.
    [7] Return to Earth (I didn’t include reëntry, landing, recovery)

    Just as in the Apollo missions, recognition of the tradeoffs between carried fuel and the ability to shuck away some of the empty cantainer-and-rocket mass for having stages instead is important. Ultimately, even for the most aggressive reëntry, there is a mass budgt.

    So, PUBLISH THE MASS BUDGET.

    That’ll inspire hundreds, thousands of groups to take on the parts. To design stuff. Essentially “free labor” because the “prize” is so valuable.

    Just saying,
    GoatGuy

    Reply
  20. No it doesn’t. The vertical line marked 1.5m extends from the level of the top of the humans feet to about their mid chest. The horizontal 2.5 m line is at the level of their shoulder, but that’s a horizontal measurement. The fundamental issue is that different people from different backgrounds have different standards as to how to draw a dimensional measure.

    Reply
  21. No it doesn’t. The vertical line marked 1.5m extends from the level of the top of the humans feet to about their mid chest.The horizontal 2.5 m line is at the level of their shoulder but that’s a horizontal measurement.The fundamental issue is that different people from different backgrounds have different standards as to how to draw a dimensional measure.

    Reply
  22. There is a vertical line that is labelled 1.5m. If you compare the height of that vertical line to the human then yes, the human is major league basketballer at least. The problem isn’t in the math, it’s the vertical line is drawn too short. If the vertical line was drawn to match the depicted height of the lander then it works out. It isn’t helped by the human being positioned hovering in mid air (or mid vacuum I guess) relative to the plane that the lander is sitting on.

    Reply
  23. There is a vertical line that is labelled 1.5m. If you compare the height of that vertical line to the human then yes the human is major league basketballer at least.The problem isn’t in the math it’s the vertical line is drawn too short. If the vertical line was drawn to match the depicted height of the lander then it works out.It isn’t helped by the human being positioned hovering in mid air (or mid vacuum I guess) relative to the plane that the lander is sitting on.

    Reply
  24. At first glance I can see that 2.5 m could be construed as the height (along a “ceiling” line), instead of demonstrating the width of the lander.

    Reply
  25. At first glance I can see that 2.5 m could be construed as the height (along a ceiling”” line)”””” instead of demonstrating the width of the lander.”””

    Reply
  26. I think that the payload request is a step toward doing that. This is by its nature going to be an iterative process. NASA starts out with very rough lander specs, then asks the payload folks to propose things that sorta-kinda fit if the following modifications were made, which then feeds back to the lander companies, and so on. This is one of the things that’s nice about having NASA in the loop for lunar missions again: They’re an honest broker that both the lander and payload people can count on to follow through getting the requirements firmed up. If you had n lander folks all talking to m payload folks, things would take a lot longer, and the interchangeability between landers and payloads would be more more restricted.

    Reply
  27. I think that the payload request is a step toward doing that. This is by its nature going to be an iterative process. NASA starts out with very rough lander specs then asks the payload folks to propose things that sorta-kinda fit if the following modifications were made which then feeds back to the lander companies and so on.This is one of the things that’s nice about having NASA in the loop for lunar missions again: They’re an honest broker that both the lander and payload people can count on to follow through getting the requirements firmed up. If you had n lander folks all talking to m payload folks things would take a lot longer and the interchangeability between landers and payloads would be more more restricted.

    Reply
  28. NASA should publicize a standard for lander-package mass, and shape and the shape of the volume they will occupy, maximum gee force, and vibration, a electrical power connector standard, the lunar orbit they will be released in, acceptable propellants, and likely other parameters I’ve not thought of, design a buss to carry them to lunar orbit from LEO, and return empty to the ISS. The bus should be sized to be launched full of landers, but with no fuel, by a falcon heavy, recovering all boosters. Fueling for every round trip at the ISS with what ever fuel it uses, and being loaded with a fresh bunch of landers. This program would stimulate innovation in landers, and rovers, as well as test the innovations. It would map hell out of Luna, a useful thing. It would build operational experience with reusable, perhaps even reconfigurable exploration vessels, that can take on new instruments, and be refueled for many missions, at a relatively low cost, and short lead time.

    Reply
  29. NASA should publicize a standard for lander-package mass and shape and the shape of the volume they will occupy maximum gee force and vibration a electrical power connector standard the lunar orbit they will be released in acceptable propellants and likely other parameters I’ve not thought of design a buss to carry them to lunar orbit from LEO and return empty to the ISS. The bus should be sized to be launched full of landers but with no fuel by a falcon heavy recovering all boosters. Fueling for every round trip at the ISS with what ever fuel it uses and being loaded with a fresh bunch of landers.This program would stimulate innovation in landers and rovers as well as test the innovations. It would map hell out of Luna a useful thing. It would build operational experience with reusable perhaps even reconfigurable exploration vessels that can take on new instruments and be refueled for many missions at a relatively low cost and short lead time.

    Reply
  30. I’m not sure I follow. A lander 1.5 m tall and 2.5 m wide seems reasonably sized besides the human figure in the picture.

    Reply
  31. I’m not sure I follow. A lander 1.5 m tall and 2.5 m wide seems reasonably sized besides the human figure in the picture.

    Reply
  32. Maybe the picture got fixed since you posted. It now shows 1.5m at about shoulder height, which is near average for a N. American male.

    Reply
  33. Maybe the picture got fixed since you posted.It now shows 1.5m at about shoulder height which is near average for a N. American male.

    Reply
  34. OK either that humanoid figure standing next to the Peregrine is 9 feet tall…. or someone botched the powerpoint. Basic math anyone? Not exactly inspiring confidence at this point.

    Reply
  35. OK either that humanoid figure standing next to the Peregrine is 9 feet tall…. or someone botched the powerpoint. Basic math anyone? Not exactly inspiring confidence at this point.

    Reply
  36. No it doesn’t. The vertical line marked 1.5m extends from the level of the top of the humans feet to about their mid chest.

    The horizontal 2.5 m line is at the level of their shoulder, but that’s a horizontal measurement.

    The fundamental issue is that different people from different backgrounds have different standards as to how to draw a dimensional measure.

    Reply
  37. There is a vertical line that is labelled 1.5m. If you compare the height of that vertical line to the human then yes, the human is major league basketballer at least.

    The problem isn’t in the math, it’s the vertical line is drawn too short. If the vertical line was drawn to match the depicted height of the lander then it works out.

    It isn’t helped by the human being positioned hovering in mid air (or mid vacuum I guess) relative to the plane that the lander is sitting on.

    Reply
  38. I think that the payload request is a step toward doing that. This is by its nature going to be an iterative process. NASA starts out with very rough lander specs, then asks the payload folks to propose things that sorta-kinda fit if the following modifications were made, which then feeds back to the lander companies, and so on.

    This is one of the things that’s nice about having NASA in the loop for lunar missions again: They’re an honest broker that both the lander and payload people can count on to follow through getting the requirements firmed up. If you had n lander folks all talking to m payload folks, things would take a lot longer, and the interchangeability between landers and payloads would be more more restricted.

    Reply
  39. NASA should publicize a standard for lander-package mass, and shape and the shape of the volume they will occupy, maximum gee force, and vibration, a electrical power connector standard, the lunar orbit they will be released in, acceptable propellants, and likely other parameters I’ve not thought of, design a buss to carry them to lunar orbit from LEO, and return empty to the ISS. The bus should be sized to be launched full of landers, but with no fuel, by a falcon heavy, recovering all boosters. Fueling for every round trip at the ISS with what ever fuel it uses, and being loaded with a fresh bunch of landers.
    This program would stimulate innovation in landers, and rovers, as well as test the innovations. It would map hell out of Luna, a useful thing. It would build operational experience with reusable, perhaps even reconfigurable exploration vessels, that can take on new instruments, and be refueled for many missions, at a relatively low cost, and short lead time.

    Reply
  40. OK either that humanoid figure standing next to the Peregrine is 9 feet tall….
    or someone botched the powerpoint.
    Basic math anyone? Not exactly inspiring confidence at this point.

    Reply

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