Tag Archives: Moon Express

Google Lunar X-Prize extends deadline

Capitalism in space: The Google Lunar X-Prize has announced that it has extended its contest deadline from the end of 2017 to the end of March 2018 for the finalists to complete their lunar rover mission and win the grand prize of $30 million.

They also announced several additional consolation prizes that all of the remaining five contestants can win should they achieve lunar orbit ($1.75 million) or successfully achieve a soft landing ($3 million), even if they are not the first to do it.

At least one team, Moon Express, will be helped enormously by the extra three months. This gives Rocket Lab just a little extra time to test its rocket before launching Moon Express’s rover to the Moon.

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Rocket Lab looks to second test flight of Electron

Capitalism in space: Having completed its review of its first May test flight of its Electron rocket, Rocket Lab now looks to the second test flight.

The article gives a good overview of the results from the first test flight. It also has this tidbit:

The second of Rocket Lab’s three planned test flights is scheduled later this year. If that launch goes well, the company will likely delete the third demonstration mission, and the first commercial Electron flight could be ready for takeoff by the end of December, Beck said last week.

“We’ve got the next test flight rolling out out to the pad in about eight weeks’ time,” Beck said. “If it’s a really good clean flight, we’ll probably accelerate into commercial operations.”

If they follow this schedule, then the next flight will be in mid-October, and the Moon Express launch of its lunar rover will occur in mid-December, just in time to win the Google Lunar X-Prize.

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Next test flight of Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket delayed

Capitalism in space: Rocket Lab has revealed that the second test flight of its rocket Electron is still several months away.

Rocket Lab is in the early stages of a three-vehicle test programme and Moon Express is still developing its lander at its facilities at Cape Canaveral, from where Apollo missions were launched. Rocket Lab’s first test launch successfully made it to space in late May. The first stage performed as it should but the second stage failed to deliver the payload to orbit.

Results of data analysis from the test flight could be available some time next week.

Earlier this month Rocket Lab founder Peter Beck said the company and its investors had confidence in the programme and they had another five rockets in various stages of production.
Beck said then a second test launch was about two or three months away and the company hoped to get its commercial launches underway as soon as it was satisfied with the test programme.

The company had previously said it hoped to launch the second test flight in mid-2017. It appears now that the second launch will not happen before October.

The article is strangely focused on selling the idea that Moon Express’s Google Lunar X-Prize flight, which must occur by the end of this year, is still on track. I don’t see how, with this news. Rocket Lab must first complete its three test flights, and I don’t see how they can do this, get their results, and update their engineering and still get this first commercial flight off by December.

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Lunar landers/rovers for sale!

Moon Express, one of the five finalists trying to win the Google Lunar X-Prize (GLXP) before it expires at the end of this year, announced today its long range plans, focused on building low cost lunar landers rovers, and sample return missions that could be purchased and launched for a tenth the cost of a typical government mission.

The GLXP mission won’t be the last lunar voyage for Moon Express, if all goes according to plan. Its deal with Rocket Lab covers up to five launches, and Moon Express wants at least two more to occur in the next few years, Richards revealed during a news conference today.

The first post-GLXP mission, scheduled to launch in 2019, will set up a robotic research outpost near the lunar south pole and prospect for water and other resources. Then, in 2020, Moon Express will launch the first commercial lunar sample-return mission. That effort, Richards said, should prove out the company’s technologies and its business model, which is centered around creating low-cost access to the moon’s surface for a variety of customers. The core piece of hardware to make all of that happen is a single-engine lander called the MX-1, which will launch on the GLXP flight. Moon Express aims to mass-produce the MX-1, sell it as a stand-alone lunar explorer and have it serve as a building block for three larger, more capable spacecraft — the MX-2, the MX-5 and the MX-9, Richards said today.

The MX-2 combines two MX-1s into a single package, boosting the MX-1’s payload capacity in Earth-moon space and potentially enabling missions to Venus or the moons of Mars. As their names suggest, the MX-5 and MX-9 incorporate five engines and nine engines, respectively, and broaden the exploration envelope even further, Richards said. All of these spacecraft will be available in orbiter, lander and deep-space variations, and the MX-5 and MX-9 vehicles will also come in a sample-return configuration.

Moon Express has not revealed how much it will charge for any of these spacecraft. However, company representatives have said that, together, the MX-1 and Electron can deliver a lunar mission for less than $10 million (that’s “cost,” not retail). Electron flights currently sell for about $5.5 million apiece, putting the lander’s raw cost at $4.5 million or less.

Essentially, they are taking the revolution in satellite technology that is making everything smaller and cheaper and applying it to planetary exploration. They are then offering this technology as a very cheap and fast option for scientists and governments. Based on these numbers, a mission to the Moon could cost a customer less than $20 million, which is nothing compared to a typical NASA mission. Even India’s Mars Orbiter was several times more expensive than this.

While I consider NASA’s planetary program second to none, and one of the best things it does, Moon Express is demonstrating, as has SpaceX with launch services, that private enterprise, if given the chance, can do it better.

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Moon Express completes funding for Google X-Prize lunar mission

The competition heats up: Moon Express, one of the five remaining contestants vying for the Google Lunar X-Prize, announced today that it has raised an additional $20 million to complete the necessary funding needed to complete its mission.

The new round brings the total Moon Express has raised to $45 million. Richards said the company is looking to raise an additional $10 million as a “contingency” and to support future missions. “This is not a stunt,” he said. “We’re not putting all our eggs in one basket.”

The company is developing a small lunar lander called the MX-1E. The spacecraft is designed to land on the moon and then “hop” to another landing site, fulfilling the requirement of the Google Lunar X Prize to travel at least 500 meters across the surface after landing. That initial mission will carry scientific and commercial payloads from several customers. Richards said Moon Express is currently focusing on the spacecraft’s key technology, its propulsion system. The company previously tested that propulsion technology in tests at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, but Richards said the company is making changes to improve its performance.

That additional performance is needed since the spacecraft will launch on Electron, a small launch vehicle being developed by U.S.-New Zealand company Rocket Lab, which can only take the lander into low Earth orbit. Earlier mission concepts called for launching on a larger vehicle that could place the spacecraft into a geostationary transfer orbit. “We need that extra punch from our own engine in order to get to the moon,” Richards said.

The article provides one more tidbit, this time about Rocket Lab and its Electron rocket:

The company’s current schedule calls for integrating the spacecraft in July, and then shipping it to Rocket Lab’s New Zealand launch site in October. The launch, scheduled for late this year, will be the seventh or eighth operational flight of the Electron, Richards said, shortly after a NASA mission under a Venture Class Launch Services contract Rocket Lab received in late 2015.

Although Rocket Lab has yet to launch an Electron — its first test flight is scheduled for no earlier than February — Richards believed the company would be ready in time for Moon Express, which faces a deadline of the end of this year to win the $20 million Google Lunar X Prize before the prize expires. [emphasis mine]

In other words, if things go as planned, Rocket Lab will launch Electron in February, and then do about one launch per month before it launches Moon Express. That will be an impressive start for the new rocket company, should they succeed in doing it.

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Moon Express gets FAA approval for Moon landing

The competition heats up: Moon Express, one of the leading private competitors in the Google Lunar X-Prize, has gotten FAA approval for its planned 2017 Moon landing.

It is looking like 2017-2018 will be very exciting years for private space. We will not only see the first launches of privately-built manned spacecraft, we will see the first privately-built and -funded missions to both the Moon and Mars.

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Second Google Lunar X-Prize launch contract confirmed

The competition heats up: The Google Lunar X-Prize has now confirmed two launch contracts for sending a privately financed and built rover to the Moon by 2017.

Moon Express is now the second company to have a launch contract for their lunar lander spacecraft verified by the X Prize Foundation. An Israeli team, SpaceIL, had its contract to launch a lander on a SpaceX Falcon 9 verified by the foundation in October. SpaceIL will be one of the primary payloads on a launch purchased in September by Spaceflight Industries that will carry about 20 other spacecraft. That initial launch contract verification allowed the foundation to formally extend the competition’s deadline to the end of 2017. Teams have until the end of 2016 to submit their own launch contracts in order to continue in the competition.

Sixteen teams remain in the competition, announced in September 2007, to land a privately-developed spacecraft on the moon, travel at least 500 meters across its surface, and return high-resolution videos and other data. Some teams are cooperating with others for launch arrangements.

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Moon Express buys launch contract

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.

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Google X-Prize competitor Moon Express has unveiled its lunar lander, scheduled to soft land on the Moon in 2015.

Google Lunar X-Prize competitor Moon Express has unveiled its lunar lander, scheduled to soft land on the Moon in 2015.

Moon Express is generally considered the leader in this lunar landing X-Prize competition, and this story adds weight to that consensus.

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The leading team in the Google Lunar X-Price contest last week successfully tested by remote control the astronomical telescope they intend to include with their lunar lander.

The leading team in the Google Lunar X-Price contest last week successfully tested by remote control the astronomical telescope they intend to include with their lunar lander.

[The Google Lunar X Prize] requires the participants to successfully land a lunar rover on the surface, drive it a minimum of 500 meters (about a third of a mile), and send back high definition video and imagery. Moon Express intends to land this first lunar lander near the Moon’s equator.

Moon Express is planning to send its first robotic lander to the Moon in late 2014. It will be launched atop either SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket or another commercial launch vehicle. It intends to fly ILOA’s shoebox-sized test telescope, called ILO-X, as part of its [X prize] entry. There are additional prizes available which might be won by an educational lunar telescope, such US$1 million prize for the entry which adds the most to diversity within space studies.

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Public test of privately built moon lander delayed by gyro

A public test of privately built moon lander has been delayed by gyro problem. Key quote:

One customer has already bought a ticket with Moon Express, asking them to deposit a small telescope on the dark side of the Moon. Jain says the company will also offer low cost ways for anyone to use the moon as a kind of time capsule. “If something goes to the moon it stays there forever, people will pay to sends things like photos, or maybe your hair or DNA.”

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