List of Interested Vendors in NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services Program

Image Credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University

Below is a list of vendors who expressed interest in NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program. The space agency is looking to buy rides to the moon for payloads.

The list includes vendors ranging from the biggest aerospace companies in the country to former Google Lunar X Prize competitors to smaller companies that few people have heard about.

NASA’s deadline for making CLPS awards is Dec. 31, 2018.

NASA Lunar CATALYST Companies

Large Space Companies

Smaller Space Companies

Former Google Lunar X Prize Teams

And the Rest….

  • A few observations:
    1) there was a NASA Centennial Challenge (remember those?) for this very thing, the NG Lunar Lander Challenge – Masten and Armadillo fit into that category. Masten is on the list under the Catalyst program, and neither Armadillo nor Exos, nor any other NGLL Challenge companies are on there. What does that say about prizes?

    2) The best of the GLXP teams are are listed as Catalyst, while the only 3 other GLXP teams are on there (I’m assuming this is Doug’s grouping, which has a good logic to it, but even that logic reveals things). Weren’t there like THIRTY teams in GLXP at one point? (NASA probably won’t fund strictly foreign teams, but US-joint venture or Rocket Lab-style US subsidiaries are on the table) Now we just have a few remaining in the game? What does THAT say about prizes?

    2) Lockheed and ULA are on the list, Boeing (independent from ULA) is not. NGIS (Orbital ATK really) is on the list, but NG isn’t. Hmmmm, interesting. I wonder what everyone is thinking.

  • Jeff2Space

    I’m thinking I’d really like to see ULA produce a horizontal lander based on Centaur (which could evolve to a Vulcan based lander later). SpaceX could to do a lander based on Dragon 2 minus the heat shield (or perhaps even based on the Falcon upper stage). Go big or go home.

  • ThomasLMatula

    It illustrates what economists have already learned about prizes decades ago. They work, but only under a specific set of circumstances, all of which the Ansari X-Prize, the Google Lunar X-Prize and the NASA Centennial Challenges violated, which is why they were failures. Pity no one bothered to review the literature or talked with someone who knew something about the role of prizes in economic development before offering them. But then just ignoring other fields of study seems to be common among “rocket scientists”.

  • Ignacio Rockwill

    Are you familiar with Masten’s Xeus collaboration with ULA?

  • 🙂

    I just wanted to make sure that in the rush to tout the latest shiny tech or darling startup, we aren’t “conveniently” forgetting the VERY recent history.

    While I want to bring up the failures of the recent past, I don’t want anyone to misunderstand me: I do agree with the overall NASA plan. I fully agree with: 1) do things that work in 2018, 2) redo things that worked in 1969. Today we have an ISS, Shuttle hardware and an ATV – I’m fully onboard with redoing a Lunar ISS (or whatever the name will be next week) using Shuttle and ATV-derived hardware. I’m also fully onboard with redoing Ranger, Surveyor and Lunar Orbiter. The fact that it’ll be done at the contractor level and not the NASA level will only set us up for a Earth/Moon ecosystem/economy.

  • Aerospike

    I think you are not going big enough. In my opinion SpaceX is on the list of interested vendors for CLPS because by their (totally optimistic) schedule, they expect BFR/BFS to be flying in the relevant time frame. I don’t think SpaceX will follow any of the previous ideas about landing Dragons anywhere else in the solar system.

  • Zed_WEASEL

    At least for transportation to the Moon’s surface. There is the elephant in the room in the form of the SpaceX BFS as heavy Lunar lander and de facto manned Lunar outpost.

    IIRC from NSF forum chatter. The BFS with supplemental refueling enroute to the Moon can land and flyback directly to Earth with a return payload of about 15 tonnes.

    SpaceX will need to break in the BFS with some cis-Lunar sorties before going off to Mars.

  • 🙂

    I just wanted to be sure that in the constant frenzy for latest shiny tech or amazing startup, that we don’t forget the VERY recent past.

    But I actually support NASA’s current path: 1) recreate what worked in 1969, 2) use what we have in 2018. Ranger, Surveyor and Lunar Orbiter worked great to prep for crewed landings/ops before Apollo. I’m also fine with using ISS/Shuttle/ATV derived hardware for a Lunar ISS. While I’m not a “commercial” purist, if it’s moving us outward I don’t want the perfect to become the enemy of the good.

  • Emmet Ford

    I don’t think SpaceX will follow any of the previous ideas about landing Dragons anywhere else in the solar system.

    “I’m sorry NASA, you can’t have a Dragon lunar lander. Yeah, it wouldn’t take much to get it done, but you convinced us that the propulsive landing option was just not the NASA way. We do want to be steely eyed rocket men, after all. Go ask Boeing. They’re much more trustworthy, after all. What’s that? They want 4 billion? Bummer. Hey, I hear Masten has developed a coffee can lander. They built it in their shop. Out of a coffee can that the nice man at ULA gave them. And boy was it fun. Maybe they can scale that up for ya.”

    they expect BFR/BFS to be flying in the relevant time frame.

    Time frames tend to slide to the right. Which will launch first, BFR or SLS?

    The problem with BFR is that it will fly right by the Lunar Gateway when it lands 50 people on the Moon. NASA can’t have that. Stepping right past the deep space stepping stone would be embarrassing. And if it looks like SpaceX is about to land a small horde of regular folks on the moon, the hero astronaut mafia in Houston will get awfully pouty awfully quick.

  • windbourne

    uh, go big is exactly what SX is looking to do.
    It will not be dragon, but BFS that is looking to be landed.

  • redneck

    “Time frames tend to slide to the right. Which will launch first, BFR or SLS?”

    BFR Block 3.

  • Terry Stetler

    ‘they expect BFR/BFS to be flying in the relevant time frame.’

    “Time frames tend to slide to the right. Which will launch first, BFR or SLS?”

    With BFS heading to early tests it’s Booster will rapidly follow, making a full stack flight sooner than many think. Why?

    Odds are they’ll follow F9 Block 5’s example of using a bolted-together thust structure with a high commonality between BFS and its Booster. Ditto the tanks; the same barrel sections, just more of them, with the same domes and common bulkhead.

    The major structural differences seem to he the Booster’s interstage, BFS’s Delta wings & flipperons, BFS’s ogive nose cone (which can be flown in boilerplate w/mass simulators), and the landing hardware particulars.

    Nowhere near as complex as two or more completely different stages, such as SLS or Saturn V.

  • IamGrimalkin

    What makes you think Astrobiotic and Moon Express are the best GLXP contestants as opposed to TeamIndus and Part-Time Scientists?

    (Also, my understanding is that several of those 30 teams were merged/acquired by other teams.)

  • Oh that’s easy, those teams are still around. The other teams don’t exist anymore.

  • IamGrimalkin

    I’m interested what criteria you are supposed to meet and how your listed prizes miss the mark?

  • Jeff2Space

    I have high hopes for BFR/BFS, eventually, many years from now, when it starts flying operationally and they’ve perfected the required refueling necessary for beyond LEO trips. But, in the meantime, SpaceX could do something with Falcon Heavy and Dragon 2.

  • Jeff2Space

    A bit. Their latest web page looks exactly what I was describing though, so I really hope it works out.

  • Eric R.

    Nice to see Gloyer-Taylor Laboritories, LLC in print!

  • Emmet Ford

    Well, we’ll see. I’m a believer, but no one has ever built a BFS before. It is worth considering how much time has elapsed since the unveiling of the Dragon 2 mock-up, which we were told was not a mock-up. It’s been 4 years. Dragon 2 still is not flying and everyone is dismissing the currently published schedule. Sure, there have been extenuating circumstances. Sure, BFS will be different. But one of those differences is BFS is way more ambitious.

    It’s also worth noting that developing BFR will cost a bunch of money, just as developing the satellite business will cost a bunch of money, just as standing up the Boca Chica launch facility will cost a bunch of money, and SpaceX charges so little for their rockets that their prices will drive you insane!

    It’s also worth noting that they expect fewer launches next year due to reduced demand. It’s also worth noting that there is no NASA money for BFR. The air force is kicking in some money for Raptor development, but it’s small potatoes.

    It’s also worth noting that Raptor is not done yet, and when that full flow staged combustion engine flies, it will be the first to do so, ever. And it will be burning methane, which is also not a thing.

    These are all challenges that SLS does not face. So it’s a horse race.

  • Eric Thiel

    I think the BFR will be done in a shorter amount of time then the FH. SpaceX has a bigger workforce now and Block 5 and the FH are pretty much completed and out of the way. They can finally focus on the big project.

  • Ignacio Rockwill

    I do, too. It’s been a lot talk with very little substance for a while now. I want to say it was announced as early as 2012, but maybe 2014.

  • ThomasLMatula

    The function of prizes in economic development is to harness the creativity of a large population to simulate the initial tech to a point where a market will take over future development.

    The Longitude Prize is the classic example. Anyone who had to skills to make a clock, or to create tables for the very accurate location of Moon or Jupiter Moons relative to each other, had an opportunity. Once awarded there was a large order waiting to outfit ships of the Royal Navy and the British Merchant Marine, either directly or via patent rights. Of course it gave birth to the Marine Chronometer Industry which led to related precision instruments.

    The Ansari X-Prize required an investment so high only a single individual was able to compete so there was no creavity and was limited to a single design. That design barely won it and was too risky to enter service without hundreds of millions in addition money needing to be invested to try to make it work. So it failed to generate a workable solution and it failed to create an industry. It rewarded a stunt instead of a step forward in space.

  • envy

    SS1 might have been a stunt, but it was absolutely a step forward in space. Before it many people in the industry didn’t even believe it was possible for a commercially funded venture to put a person in space.

  • envy

    SpaceX undoubtedly noted that in it’s response to CLPS.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Yes, the entire point of being able to land Dragon2 on land with rockets was to make it a universal lander suitable for any world. NASA pushing to a chute and water landing system killed both Red Dragon and the Lunar Dragon. It’s why Elon Musk has lost interest in Dragon2 and is focusing on BFR.

    Sure SpaceX is still working on it to fulfill their CCP requirements, but I don’t think it’s being assigned the best talent or getting Elon Musk’s personal attention. It’s seen now as a dead end. So Elon Musk along with the best and brightest at SpaceX are instead focusing on BFR.

  • envy

    Refueling isn’t strictly necessary for BLEO trips. BFR will put 25 tonnes to GTO in a single launch with full reuse and no refueling. It could put 5-10 tonnes on a lunar flyby with free return, also with full reuse and no refueling. Stripped down and fully expended (but still with no refueling) it could likely land ~5 tonnes on the lunar surface.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Remember, it’s designed to be able to transport 100 settlers to Mars, so the 50 space explorers that it lands on the Moon will be likely accompanied by about the same number of reporters to cover it. As a reference point that will be over twice the number of astronauts NASA now has on its roster.

  • IamGrimalkin

    What is your source that PT Scientists and Team Indus don’t exist anymore? They certainly seem to exist, and have active social media accounts.

  • IamGrimalkin

    The thing is though, telescopes are expensive and only a few had access to them (and that was the main approach at the time), and no-one knew how much it would have cost to make a clock that works on boats a priori.

    Also, another possibility could have just been a boat that doesn’t rock too much (so you could just use pendulum clocks), and that would have been very expensive to work out how to do.

    That’s the thing: designing a competition to allow anyone to come up with a solution requires you to know the solution before you set the prize up, which of course you can’t do.

    I can’t think of a solution to the Ansari X Prize a normal person could do, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t one (although, or course, the Ansari X Prize itself is strong evidence there isn’t).

  • Emmet Ford

    Remember, it’s designed to be able to transport 100 settlers to Mars

    I think that was ITS, the larger 2017 version of BFR. That’s why I said 50. But really, the less said, the better. You can’t start to look too closely at the proposition without it all starting to seem rather far fetched.

    Are there going to be 50 space suits for those 50 passengers? Who is going to prep and maintain the space suits? When did the space suits get designed and built? When did they get tested? In the movie the space suits are just there and they work. But this won’t be like a movie. It’ll be more like a book. You ever listen to one of those audio books? They’re like 30 hours long. The space suit design, the manufacture, the testing, it’s all in there. This would be like that. You can’t skip over that part. And someone has to pay for it.

    How do you get the static-clingy, razor-sharp regolith off the suits on the way back inside.

    What happens when someone falls in a hole? 50 people pretty much guarantees that some talented soul falls in a hole and it gets streamed live on the Internet.

    How smooth a surface do you need for landings to avoid breaking the spaceship? The entire surface of the moon is covered in four and a half billion years of asteroid shrapnel and the footprint of the BFS is like 30 feet wide, right? If those boulders are jumping around then I have no doubt that the BFS will avoid them. But if the boulders are standing still, the Tesla autopilot is going to accelerate right through them. Will that be OK? Is Neil Armstrong available for landings?

    What do you use for power while on the surface? Who designed and manufactured that? Who is going to maintain that. The suit guy is really busy.

    The BFS toilets that don’t work properly in microgravity, do they also not work properly in 1/6th gravity? If you mix poop with regolith, can you make gamma ray resistant bricks?

  • Zed_WEASEL

    BFS is still supposes to carry 100 persons with a reduce cargo capacity of 150 tonnes to Mars.

    SpaceX makes their own spacesuits. The crew on the inaugural manned Dragon 2 flight will be wearing SpaceX spacesuits. By the time SpaceX sends people to the Lunar surface. They will have a Moonsuit available.

    Everyone going for Lunar surface excursion will be signing a waiver. Such excursions are not risk free. Video feeds from the Moon will have the standard few seconds time delay to blank out mishaps.

    You do realize that the Falcon 9 without thrusters on the bottom have a landing accuracy of a few meters. It is not humanly possible to manually maneuver a mini skyscraper for a hover-slam landing.

    SpaceX sister company Tesla make solar power systems.

    We don’t know anything about the BFS toilets and how well they work. However we know the Russian toilet works in the ISS.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Although telescopes were rare they were more common than you think. The problem was the mathematics. Clock making was already an established field with numerous clock makers across Europe. And it wasn’t limited to those two options, anyone could try, but it expected by theory one or the other was the likely solution.

  • ThomasLMatula

    No, that is one of the myths associated with it. There is no mystery with putting humans in space, it’s just technology and being able to write the check for it.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Radar has advanced a bit since Apollo 11 and could probably be used to find a nice smooth area. And you are still assuming a tourist model where everyone goes out to play. The first mission will likey be to scout a base location and to prepare a place for future landings. Remember, commercial firms aren’t going to the Moon for science but for resource development and will keep returning to the same site to build up a facility to develop the resources there.

  • redneck

    Landing technology has advanced as well. The hoverslam concept means that almost any upper stage could be modified as a Lunar lander even without the ability to hover in 1/6 gee. It is quite possible that serious precursor missions could be flying by next year with mostly existing hardware. Refuel in LEO and then LEO to the Lunar surface. By the time 50-100 people are landing in a BFS, the LZ will be mapped, graded, and have comprehensive landing aides.

  • envy

    Many people believed it would cost much more, and before SS1 there was no proof otherwise.

  • ThomasLMatula

    But SS1 was going to happen without the prize. Paul Allen was already funding it. So the prize added nothing but hype, and additional expense. Instead of $20 million it would have only cost $9 million.

  • Jeff2Space

    While true, the long term intent is that BFS be a moon/Mars lander. To do that, you need refueling in LEO.

  • envy

    Without the schedule pressure, SS1 would more likely have been like SS2: going nowhere anytime soon, and possibly cancelled before flying anyone. Allen turned out to not have the stomach for it.

    And the issues with SS2 are fundamental to it’s design and to Rutan’s design philosophy. No amount of testing SS1 would fix that.