NASA calls for more companies to join its commercial lunar lander program

NASA has opened up a call for companies to join the ranks of its nine existing Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) providers, a group it chose in November after a similar solicitation for proposals. With the CLPS program, NASA is buying space aboard future commercial lunar landers to deliver its future research, science and demonstration projects to the surface of the Moon, and it’s looking for more providers to sign up as lunar lander providers fo contracts that could prove put to $2.6 billion and extend through 2028.

The list of nine providers chosen in November 2018 includes Astrobotic Technology, Deep Space Systems, Draper, Firefly Aerospace, Intuitive Machines, Lockheed Martin, Masten Space Systems, Moon Express and OrbitBeyond. NASA is looking to these companies, and whoever ends up added to a list as a result of this second call for submissions, to bring both small and mid-size lunar landers, with the aim of delivering anything from rovers, to batteries, to payloads specific to future Artemis missions with the aim of helping establish a more permanent human presence on the Moon.

NASA’s goal in building out a stable of providers helps its Moon ambitions in a few different ways, including providing redundancy, and also offering a competitive field so that they can open up bids for specific payloads and gain price advantages.

At the end of May, NASA announced the award of over $250 million in contracts for specific payload delivery missions that were intended to take place by 2021. The three companies chosen from its list of nine providers were Astrobotic, Intuitive Machines and OrbitBeyond – OrbitBeyond told the agency just yesterday, however, that it would not be able to fulfill the contract awarded due to “internal corporate challenges” and backed out of the contract with NASA’s permission.

Given how quickly one of their providers exited one of the few contracts already awarded, and the likely significant demand there will be for commercial lander services should NASA’s Artemis ambitions even match up somewhat closely to the vision, it’s probably a good idea for the agency to build out that stable of service providers.

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