When NASA led the charge to land humans on the moon 50 years ago, they did it with a handful of big-name aerospace contractors that, under NASA's watchful eye, built the rockets, landers and rovers. As NASA plans to return humans to the lunar surface by 2024 under the Artemis program, the space agency is looking for more help. While the big names are still around, including Boeing, Northrop-Grumman and Lockheed Martin, so are new smaller businesses.
In November 2018, NASA announced that nine companies had been selected for the Commercial Lunar Payload Services, or CLPS, program to launch and deliver payloads to the moon. In the past, NASA was in charge of spaceflight from start to finish, but under CLPS, NASA is contracting out some of the most expensive parts of space travel to private companies. Think of it as catching an Uber to space.
These private companies are eligible for multimillion-dollar contracts to put payloads on the moon from probes, supplies, scientific instruments to landers and rovers.
The requirements are that payloads must be at least 22 pounds and each company had to launch its payload or hitch a ride on another company's rocket to get to the moon.
NASA has budgeted a total of $2.6 billion over the next decade for CLPS contracts. In May, NASA announced that it had selected three companies to build the first wave of moon landers to conduct lunar science missions: Astrobotic, Intuitive Machines and Orbit Beyond. Orbit Beyond has since withdrawn from the agreement with NASA due to time constraints.
Here's a look at the private companies NASA is relying on to lay the groundwork to return humans to the moon in the next five years. Click on the logos below to learn more about each company.