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The competition heats up: The leading private effort to win the Google Lunar X-Prize, Moon Express, has signed a contract with the smallsat launch company Rocket Labs for three launches.
Mountain View, California-based Moon Express plans to use the launches to send to the moon new, smaller versions of its MX-1 lunar lander. Two of the launches will take place in 2017, with a third to be scheduled. All three will use Rocket Lab’s Electron small launch vehicle, whose first flight is scheduled for no earlier than late 2015 from New Zealand. – See more at: http://spacenews.com/moon-express-buys-rocket-lab-launches-for-lunar-missions/#sthash.J1hEuCp3.dpuf
Rather than piggyback on the major launch of big payload, which would deny them any control over launch dates, they have signed with a new and as yet unproved small rocket company. The result? Not only do we have the chance of getting our first privately built lander on the Moon, the contract jumpstarts a new rocket company designed to put small payloads into space.