SpaceX Tapped to Launch Firefly’s Lunar Lander for 2023 NASA Mission
In a May 20 announcement, Firefly said that SpaceX will use its Falcon 9 rocket to launch the Blue Ghost lunar lander in 2023, carrying 10 payloads for NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services program.
The company has begun working on the lander, including procuring long-lead items and testing the vision navigation system on a 1-acre simulated lunar landscape at a test site in Briggs, Texas.
The lunar lander for NASA is the first contract that validated Firefly’s end-to-end space transportation business, according to Tom Markusic, the company’s chief executive.
The 10 payloads will conduct science experiments and technology demonstrations, including a probe to measure heat flow from the lunar interior.
The 2023 mission will send the payloads to Mare Crisium, a basin on the near side of the moon.
Currently, Firefly is building its own launch vehicle called Alpha, which has a first launch expected in the coming weeks. The rocket, however, is not capable of taking the Blue Ghost lander to the moon, prompting Firefly to tap SpaceX.
Shea Ferring, senior vice president of spacecraft at Firefly, said that SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launch vehicle enables a lunar transit using minimal Blue Ghost propulsion resources. Falcon 9 will allow the lander to deliver over 150 kg of payload to the moon’s surface, Ferring said.
With the contract from Firefly, SpaceX is now launching five of six NASA CLPS missions.
Aside from the CLPS deals, SpaceX also has other NASA contracts, including one that will launch the first two elements of the agency’s lunar Gateway onboard Falcon Heavy in 2024.
Tags: 2023 mission Blue Ghost CLPS proram Firefly Aerospace lunar lander lunar missions NASA science experiements Shea Ferring space SpaceNews SpaceX technology demonstrations Tom Markusic