NASA Selects New Lunar Lander Companies

Five companies are newly eligible to deliver robotic payloads to the lunar surface for NASA through the agency’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program. NASA announced that Blue Origin, Ceres Robotics, Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), SpaceX and Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems had been selected to join the list. These companies are now eligible to bid on future task orders for the delivery of payloads to the lunar surface.

The five companies, selected from eight that submitted proposals, join the original nine CLPS companies selected by NASA nearly a year ago. Last November, NASA tapped Astrobotic, Deep Space Systems, Draper, Firefly Aerospace, Intuitive Machines, Lockheed Martin, Masten Space Systems, Moon Express, and OrbitBeyond for the program. Each company will have to beat out the rest of the CLPS pool, now 14 companies strong, for each moon contract. 

NASA officials said buying a ride on private craft, rather than developing and building its own landers, will save the agency a great deal of money. In May, NASA awarded task orders to Astrobotic, Intuitive Machines, and OrbitBeyond for lunar lander missions. OrbitBeyond canceled its task order two months later, citing internal business issues.

SpaceX, which would be offering the largest lander of the new entrants, says its lunar lander missions could begin in 2022. John Roth, vice president of business development at SNC, also said its lander should be ready for missions in 2022. Michael Sims, chief executive of Ceres Robotics, said his company’s lander should be available for missions starting in 2023.

Blue Origin declined to state when its lander would be ready for CLPS missions, saying it would depend on the specifics of each individual CLPS task order. Marco Villa, the chief operating officer for Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems also declined to say when his company’s lander would be ready.

NASA is also seeking private sector assistance to build the crewed Artemis lander. This past May, the agency selected 11 companies to submit detailed proposals by Nov. 8. Up to four finalists are expected to be selected early next year.