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Moon Express to test lander at historic Cape Canaveral complexes

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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – The Moon Express has reached a long-term agreement with the Air Force’s 45th Space Wing to use complexes 17 and 18 in Cape Canaveral to assemble and test its washing machine-sized lander and a neighboring one, to support development of commercial lunar landers that could fly as soon as next year.

News 6 partner Florida Today reports the landers will perform short, low-altitude hops during tests at the former Cape launch complexes, but flights to the moon could launch from as far away as New Zealand initially, depending on which rocket the company uses.

The agreement finally settles Moon Express in a new home at the Cape, a short hop down the coast from where it had originally planned to set up shop.

Early last year the company announced a deal to use Launch Complex 36, but agreed to relocate after Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin committed to launching orbital rockets there by the end of the decade.

Space Florida will contribute $1.9 million to upgrades of complexes 17 and 18, an amount Moon Express will match. The company expects to base up to 50 employees at the Cape by later this year and to grow over time.

About 25 employees already work at offices near the Air Force Station and at KSC’s former shuttle runway, where Moon Express has performed tether tests of a lander prototype.

Built in 1956 for Thor missile tests, Launch Complex 17 is distinguished by twin gantries that the Air Force eventually plans to tear down.

Moon Express’ test flight activity will take place primarily next door at Launch Complex 18, where the United States attempted its first, unsuccessful launch of a satellite after the Soviet Union’s surprise launch of Sputnik.

The first launch to the moon is targeted for the last quarter of next year, from a location still is to be determined.

Moon Express has booked three launches with Rocket Lab, developer of the new Electron rocket that will start flying from New Zealand. Rocket Lab is considering establishing a Florida launch site.