The race to put humans back on the moon is in full swing. Part of the lunar missions that are set to occur over the next several years will include using landing craft to put the gear on the moon’s surface. NASA made some headway on that front last week when they awarded contracts to three companies responsible for delivering that gear on the moon. The contracts were worth $250 million, and the companies are expected to have everything ready to go by the initial launch, which is scheduled for September 2020.
That initial mission contract was awarded to the company OrbitBeyond. The company has $97 million to put toward its lander project. The current mission calls for this lander to hitch a ride on a SpaceX Falcon 9 and then deliver 4 different payloads on Mare Imbrium beginning in September next year.
The second company to receive a contract is Astrobotic. The mission is scheduled for June 2021, at which time Astrobotic’s Peregrine lander will deliver up to 14 payloads on the lunar crater known as Lacus Mortis. For its efforts, Astrobotic received $79.5 million.
The third and final company to receive a NASA contract is Intuitive Machines. Their mission will follow directly on the heels of the Astrobotic landings in July 2021. The Houston-based company will carry 4 payloads on its lander and deliver them to either the Mare Serenitatis or Oceanus Procellarum areas of the lunar surface. For its efforts, Intuitive Machines received $77 million.
While NASA only awarded three contracts, eight total companies submitted proposals for the gigs. When it came time to select who would be getting the work, NASA’s deputy associate administrator said that the three companies were selected because they had produced “credible” technical plans. Those plans had thorough risk assessments, as well as detailed schedules and cost analysis.
The companies have already started building and testing some of the hardware that will be needed to accomplish the landings, and the executives from all three companies are confident that they’ll be able to meet the launch deadlines in place.