LOS ANGELES, August 16, 2017 (XPRIZE PR) – Today, XPRIZE and Google announce that $4.75M in additional Milestone Prize money will be available to Google Lunar XPRIZE finalist teams for achieving technological milestones along the way to the Moon.
Additionally, XPRIZE established a mission completion deadline of March 31, 2018, regardless of the initiation date, in order for teams to win the Grand or Second-Place Prizes.
It looks as if the next Electron flight test will take place in late October.
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, [CEO Peter] 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.”
Once Rocket Lab delivers the next Electron rocket to the launch pad, ground crews will spend several weeks readying the booster, rehearsing countdown procedures, and verifying all of the vehicle’s sensors and instruments are functioning.
“This vehicle, again, has on the order of 25,000 or 30,000 sensors, so for us these flights are all about gathering data, so there’s a lot of ‘go-no go’ criteria around those sensors,” Beck said. “Usually, it takes us a good couple of weeks to get all that buttoned up, and then we’ll be ready to launch.”
One of Rocket Lab’s first commercial missions is set to send a robotic lunar lander into space for Moon Express, a Florida-based aerospace developer vying to win the Google Lunar X-Prize, which requires a successful landing on the moon by the end of 2017.
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Moon Express PR) — International Lunar Observatory Association (ILOA) and Moon Express have announced a collaboration for the delivery of the first International Lunar Observatory to the South Pole of the Moon in 2019 (ILO-1). Moon Express has been contracted by ILOA to develop advanced landing technologies supporting the mission.
The ILO-1 astrophysical observatory and research station will be the world’s first instrument to image the Milky Way Galaxy and to conduct international astrophysical observations and communications from the lunar surface.
Moon Express’s Naveen Jain is optimistic his company and the Rocket Lab will be ready to fly to the moon by the end of the year n an attempt to win the Google Lunar X Prize.
Moon Express is building a lander and hopper in an effort to win the $20 million first prize. Rocket Lab is hoping to launch the maiden flight of its Electron booster as early as Tuesday.
As it stands today, Jain’s space company appears to be the private-industry leader in the race to reach the Moon….
Jain notes Moon Express—not Virgin Galactic, SpaceX, or Blue Origin—remains the only company to secure all the necessary permissions from the US government to launch beyond low-Earth orbit toward the Moon. And in January, his co-founder (and current CEO) Bob Richards announced the company fully hit its funding goals as well. However, the team has yet to solidify the third component for its success. Moon Express secured an initial flight contract with Rocket Lab, another US space company with a subsidiary in New Zealand. Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket, however, has yet to even run a test launch.
Fear not, Jain says. If that vehicle doesn’t look to be panning out in time, he indicates Moon Express will look for workable alternatives without hesitation.
“We are completely ready to go for the end of this year,” Jain says. “And I believe Rocket Lab will be, too. I believe, by the end of the year, they will have done four or five tests by the time we go. But just to be clear, we are not married to any rocket. That means we could be using a Launcher One from Virgin Galactic, if it is ready. We could be using SpaceX. We could be using some other rocket.”
Reopening the American Frontier: Exploring How the Outer Space Treaty Will Impact American Commerce and Settlement in Space
Senate Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness Tuesday, May 23, 2017 2:30 p.m. Live webcast: www.commerce.senate.gov.
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), chairman of the Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness, will convene a hearing titled “Reopening the American Frontier: Exploring How the Outer Space Treaty Will Impact American Commerce and Settlement in Space” at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 23, 2017.
This hearing will examine U.S. government obligations under the Outer Space Treaty on its 50th anniversary, specifically compliance with Article VI of the Treaty that requires governments to authorize and continually supervise the activities of non-government entities. This hearing will also explore the Treaty’s potential impacts on expansion of our nation’s commerce and settlement in space.
Witness Panel 1:
Mr. James E. Dunstan, Founder, Mobius Legal Group, PLLC
Ms. Laura Montgomery, Attorney and Proprietor, Ground Based Space Matters, LLC
Mr. Matthew Schaefer, Co-Director of Space, Cyber and Telecommunications Law Program University of Nebraska College of Law
Witness Panel 2:
Mr. Mike Gold, Vice President, Washington Operations, Space Systems Loral
Mr. Peter Marquez, Vice President of Global Engagement, Planetary Resources
Colonel Pamela Melroy, Colonel, U.S. Air Force, Retired and Former Astronaut
Mr. Bob Richards, Founder and CEO, Moon Express
Tuesday, May 23, 2017 2:30 p.m. Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness
This hearing will take place in Russell Senate Office Building, Room 253. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.
“The requirement is to provide a commercial launch and landing service on existing or forthcoming FAA licensed commercial missions to the lunar surface for NASA primary payloads, NASA secondary payloads, or NASA hosted payloads, with the potential to also procure data from any commercial lunar surface missions and/or return payloads or samples to the Earth,” the RFI states.
“NASA has identified a variety of exploration, science, and technology demonstration objectives that could be addressed by sending instruments, experiments, or other payloads to the lunar surface. To address these objectives as cost-effectively as possible, NASA may procure payloads and related commercial payload delivery services to the Moon,” the request adds.
Currently, the only known FAA-licensed commercial mission to the lunar surface will be conducted by Moon Express. The company plans to launch a lander and hopper to the moon this year in an attempt to win the $20 million first prize in the Google Lunar X Prize.
Synergy Moon, an international team with U.S. members, has a contract to launch its mission to the moon later this year on an Interorbital Systems rocket off the California coast.
Astrobotic, which recently dropped out of the competition, has said it still plans to launch a rover to the moon. However, it will not do so by the end of 2017, which is a requirement to compete in the prize.
SpaceX has announced plans to send two people around the moon in a modified Dragon spacecraft. The company has said nothing about landing anything on the surface, but it’s possible the mission’s booster, Falcon Heavy, could include secondary payloads.
It looks as if Team SpaceIL is out of the $30 million Google Lunar XPrize.
Quartzreports the Israeli team will not be able to launch its lander/rover to the moon aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 booster until some time next year — too late to meet the end-of-2017 deadline required to win the prize.
Moon Express has announced that it has raised $20 million in a Series B funding round from Founders Fund, Autodesk and Collaborative Fund.
The company says it is fully funded to land a spacecraft on the moon later this year. The flight will be an attempt to win the $20 million first prize in the Google Lunar X Prize for the first privately built vehicle to land on the moon and travel 500 meters across the surface. There is a $5 million prize for the second team to achieve the goal.
Moon Express’ spacecraft will launch on a Rocket Lab Electron rocket. Rocket Lab expects to launch the Electron on its first flight test in February.
It’s going to be busy year in space in 2017. Here’s a look at what we can expect over the next 12 months.
A New Direction for NASA?
NASA’s focus under the Obama Administration has been to try to commercialize Earth orbit while creating a foundation that would allow the space agency to send astronauts to Mars in the 2030’s.
Whether Mars will remain a priority under the incoming Trump Administration remains to be seen. There is a possibility Trump will refocus the space agency on lunar missions instead.
Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), who is currently viewed as a leading candidate for NASA administrator, has written two blog posts focused on the importance of exploring the moon and developing its resources. Of course, whether Bridenstine will get NASA’s top job is unclear at this time.
Astrobotic has pulled out of the Google Lunar X Prize, according to an update on the Space Angels Network website.
As a former XPRIZE contender, Astrobotic was the only team to win all three of the competition’s Milestone Prizes, which brought the company $1.75 million in prize money. Astrobotic is now poised for further success: Their Peregrine Lander will carry customer payloads to the Moon’s surface in 2019, including the rovers of three other GLXP competitors. These initial customers, who have had an opportunity to evaluate all potential service providers, have said that Astrobotic is “years ahead of the competition.” (more…)
TeamIndus, the only Indian team in the Google Lunar X Prize (GLXP), has announced a contract with the ISRO space agency to fly its lunar rover aboard a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) next year.
The team is hoping to win the $20 million first prize for the first privately-built rover on the moon. The vehicle will need to travel 500 meters across the surface and beam back high-definition video to Earth. The competition also has a $5 million second prize.
TeamIndus officials said the ISRO contract has been verified by the X Prize Foundation, which runs the competition. Four other teams have announced launch contracts: Moon Express, PTScientists, SpaceIL and Synergy Moon. The foundation has verified the contracts for all of these teams except for PTScientists, which announced its agreement earlier this week.
The foundation set a deadline for the end of this year for competition’s 16 teams to have their launch contracts verified. Any teams without launch agreements will be dropped from competition.
TeamIndus said it needs to raise $65 million to pay for the launch and the mission. It is in negotiations with other teams without rides to the moon to carry their rovers to the surface.
The team’s chances of winning GLXP money will depend upon the competition extending its deadline for winning the prize beyond Dec. 31, 2017. The launch is not scheduled until Dec. 28. The spacecraft will then take 21 days to spiral out to the moon and land there.
The other issue is that launch schedules are notoriously unreliable. ISRO is no exception. It’s a pretty big bet to except the agency to launch on time. The schedule also gives TeamIndus no room for delays on hardware that isn’t even built and tested yet.
WASHINGTON, DC, November 1st, 2016 (Moon Express PR) – Moon Express has announced a new program that will provide $1.5M in private funding for NASA-selected payloads to fly to the Moon.
The announcement was made today at the annual meeting of NASA’s Lunar Exploration Analysis Group (LEAG), in response to NASA’s call for lunar instrument concepts that would be flown to the Moon utilizing commercial mission services.