Another private company has picked SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket to launch its moon lander carrying NASA and private research to the lunar surface.
Firefly Aerospace, a Cedar Park, Texas-based commercial space company, announced Thursday it has awarded the launch contract to SpaceX to send up its Blue Ghost lunar lander in 2023.
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The Blue Ghost was among several lunar robotic missions selected by the U.S. space agency as part of NASA’s commercial lunar payload services (CLPS) program. Firefly was selected as part of the CLPS program in 2021. The robotic program is laying the groundwork for NASA to return astronauts to the moon in the next few years under the Artemis program.
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Two other private moon landers are slated to launch from Florida within the next year. SpaceX is also launching Intuitive Machine’s Nova-C moon lander as part of the CLPS program in early 2022.
Firefly says it’s making good headway toward launch, including conducting vision navigation test flights at its lunar landscape site in Texas.
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“Firefly is excited to fly our Blue Ghost spacecraft on the highly reliable Falcon 9, which will deliver NASA instruments and technology demonstration payloads that support NASA science goals and NASA’s Artemis program,” Firefly Senior Vice President of Spacecraft Shea Ferring said in a statement. “The high performance of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launch vehicle permits a lunar transit using minimal Blue Ghost propulsion resources, thereby allowing the lander to deliver more than 150 kg of payload to the lunar surface.”
Blue Ghost was named after the Phausis reticulata firefly. The robotic lander will touch down at Mare Crisium on the moon in 2023.
The last robotic mission to the area in the moon’s Crisium basin was in 1976 when Russia landed Luna 24, a sample-collecting mission, on the surface. The spacecraft returned a little less than a pound of moon dirt to Earth.
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