SpaceX has another mission to the moon, as it has been contracted to deliver a lunar lander as part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program. It will deliver the lander from another private company, Masten Space Systems, which will explore the moon’s south pole in a mission set to launch in late 2022.
The MM1 mission aims to investigate the moon’s pole with a lander equipped with scientific instruments and other payloads from commercial space companies. The poles of the moon are known to host water ice in shadowed areas that form cold traps, and this could be an important resource for future crewed lunar exploration. As well as NASA instruments which will be carried by Masten’s XL-1, the company says it will also provide opportunities for other commercial partners to send payloads to the moon as part of this mission.
Illustration of Masten’s XL-1 lunar lander on the surface of the moonMasten Space Systems
The contract does not state which vehicle SpaceX will use to deliver the payload — presumably, the aim is to use the upcoming Starship, but this hasn’t been confirmed — but Masten says it is happy to have SpaceX on board.
“Having SpaceX’s proven launch success behind us is not only great for us, but it’s great for our customers,” Masten chief executive officer, Sean Mahoney, said in a statement. “We share a common vision with SpaceX and that makes this more than a partnership. It’s more like a dream team.”
This adds Masten to a roster of lunar mission which will make use of SpaceX technology for traveling to the moon, including another NASA CLPS mission from Intuitive Machines. NASA says that by inviting commercial partners to participate in lunar missions under the CLPS program, it aims to advance the scientific exploration of the moon and to build a commercial industry around lunar resources and exploration.
“We are thrilled to be launching Masten’s Mission One to the Moon in 2022,” SpaceX senior director of commercial sales Stephanie Bednarek said in the statement. “SpaceX was founded upon the goal of extending humanity’s reach beyond Earth, and it’s exciting to take part in a mission with many partners who share the same vision.”