Statement of Jason Crusan Director, Advanced Exploration Systems Division Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Subcommittee on Space Committee on Science, Space, and Technology U. S. House of Representatives
Lunar CATALYST: Promoting Private Sector Robotic Exploration of the Moon
As part of the Agency’s overall strategy to conduct deep space exploration, NASA is also supporting the development of commercial lunar exploration. In 2014, NASA introduced an initiative called Lunar Cargo Transportation and Landing by Soft Touchdown (CATALYST). The purpose of the initiative is to encourage the development of U.S. private-sector robotic lunar landers capable of successfully delivering payloads to the lunar surface using U.S. commercial launch capabilities.
NASA has released a document listing the 1,206 active Space Act Agreements (SAAs) the agency has with commercial companies, non-profit organizations and state and local governments.
From that list, I’ve extracted agreements with individual companies. Below you will find tables listing SAAs that NASA has signed with Virgin Group companies, Moon Express and NanoRacks. There is also a fourth table that has SAAs with a number of companies and organizations that we follow on Parabolic Arc.
SAAs come in three varieties: reimburseable, non-reimburseable and funded. Under reimburseable agreements, a company or organization will pay NASA for its services. No money exchanges hands under non-reimburseable agrements. And under funded agreements, NASA pays the company to perform work or provide services. (The space agency made substantial use of SAA’s in the Commercial Crew Program.)
House Subcommittee on Space Hearing Private Sector Lunar Exploration Thursday, September 7, 2017 – 10:00am 2318 Rayburn House Office Building)
NASA is supporting private sector exploration of the Moon through various programs. The private sector is also investing their own funding in the hopes of serving a future market for transportation, cargo delivery, and surface operations (including in situ resource utilization). Moon Express plans to launch a mission to the Moon later this year or early next year. Astrobotic recently announced a mission in 2019. Blue Origin disclosed its “Blue Moon” concept last spring. The United Launch Alliance and SpaceX have also indicated plans to operate in cislunar space in the near-future. The Hearing will review these efforts, and NASA’s role, in order to better understand the challenges and opportunities that they present.
Mr. Jason Crusan, director, Advanced Exploration Systems, NASA
Mr. Bob Richards, founder and CEO, Moon Express, Inc.
Mr. John Thornton, chief executive officer, Astrobotic Technology, Inc.
Mr. Bretton Alexander, director of business development and strategy, Blue Origin
Dr. George Sowers, professor, space resources, Colorado School of Mines
LOS ANGELES, August 16, 2017 (XPRIZE PR) – Today, XPRIZE and Google announce that $4.75M in additional Milestone Prize money will be available to Google Lunar XPRIZE finalist teams for achieving technological milestones along the way to the Moon.
Additionally, XPRIZE established a mission completion deadline of March 31, 2018, regardless of the initiation date, in order for teams to win the Grand or Second-Place Prizes.
It looks as if the next Electron flight test will take place in late October.
The second of Rocket Lab’s three planned test flights is scheduled later this year. If that launch goes well, the company will likely delete the third demonstration mission, and the first commercial Electron flight could be ready for takeoff by the end of December, [CEO Peter] Beck said last week.
“We’ve got the next test flight rolling out out to the pad in about eight weeks’ time,” Beck said. “If it’s a really good clean flight, we’ll probably accelerate into commercial operations.”
Once Rocket Lab delivers the next Electron rocket to the launch pad, ground crews will spend several weeks readying the booster, rehearsing countdown procedures, and verifying all of the vehicle’s sensors and instruments are functioning.
“This vehicle, again, has on the order of 25,000 or 30,000 sensors, so for us these flights are all about gathering data, so there’s a lot of ‘go-no go’ criteria around those sensors,” Beck said. “Usually, it takes us a good couple of weeks to get all that buttoned up, and then we’ll be ready to launch.”
One of Rocket Lab’s first commercial missions is set to send a robotic lunar lander into space for Moon Express, a Florida-based aerospace developer vying to win the Google Lunar X-Prize, which requires a successful landing on the moon by the end of 2017.
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Moon Express PR) — International Lunar Observatory Association (ILOA) and Moon Express have announced a collaboration for the delivery of the first International Lunar Observatory to the South Pole of the Moon in 2019 (ILO-1). Moon Express has been contracted by ILOA to develop advanced landing technologies supporting the mission.
The ILO-1 astrophysical observatory and research station will be the world’s first instrument to image the Milky Way Galaxy and to conduct international astrophysical observations and communications from the lunar surface.
Moon Express’s Naveen Jain is optimistic his company and the Rocket Lab will be ready to fly to the moon by the end of the year n an attempt to win the Google Lunar X Prize.
Moon Express is building a lander and hopper in an effort to win the $20 million first prize. Rocket Lab is hoping to launch the maiden flight of its Electron booster as early as Tuesday.
As it stands today, Jain’s space company appears to be the private-industry leader in the race to reach the Moon….
Jain notes Moon Express—not Virgin Galactic, SpaceX, or Blue Origin—remains the only company to secure all the necessary permissions from the US government to launch beyond low-Earth orbit toward the Moon. And in January, his co-founder (and current CEO) Bob Richards announced the company fully hit its funding goals as well. However, the team has yet to solidify the third component for its success. Moon Express secured an initial flight contract with Rocket Lab, another US space company with a subsidiary in New Zealand. Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket, however, has yet to even run a test launch.
Fear not, Jain says. If that vehicle doesn’t look to be panning out in time, he indicates Moon Express will look for workable alternatives without hesitation.
“We are completely ready to go for the end of this year,” Jain says. “And I believe Rocket Lab will be, too. I believe, by the end of the year, they will have done four or five tests by the time we go. But just to be clear, we are not married to any rocket. That means we could be using a Launcher One from Virgin Galactic, if it is ready. We could be using SpaceX. We could be using some other rocket.”
Reopening the American Frontier: Exploring How the Outer Space Treaty Will Impact American Commerce and Settlement in Space
Senate Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness Tuesday, May 23, 2017 2:30 p.m. Live webcast: www.commerce.senate.gov.
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), chairman of the Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness, will convene a hearing titled “Reopening the American Frontier: Exploring How the Outer Space Treaty Will Impact American Commerce and Settlement in Space” at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 23, 2017.
This hearing will examine U.S. government obligations under the Outer Space Treaty on its 50th anniversary, specifically compliance with Article VI of the Treaty that requires governments to authorize and continually supervise the activities of non-government entities. This hearing will also explore the Treaty’s potential impacts on expansion of our nation’s commerce and settlement in space.
Witness Panel 1:
Mr. James E. Dunstan, Founder, Mobius Legal Group, PLLC
Ms. Laura Montgomery, Attorney and Proprietor, Ground Based Space Matters, LLC
Mr. Matthew Schaefer, Co-Director of Space, Cyber and Telecommunications Law Program University of Nebraska College of Law
Witness Panel 2:
Mr. Mike Gold, Vice President, Washington Operations, Space Systems Loral
Mr. Peter Marquez, Vice President of Global Engagement, Planetary Resources
Colonel Pamela Melroy, Colonel, U.S. Air Force, Retired and Former Astronaut
Mr. Bob Richards, Founder and CEO, Moon Express
Tuesday, May 23, 2017 2:30 p.m. Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness
This hearing will take place in Russell Senate Office Building, Room 253. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.
“The requirement is to provide a commercial launch and landing service on existing or forthcoming FAA licensed commercial missions to the lunar surface for NASA primary payloads, NASA secondary payloads, or NASA hosted payloads, with the potential to also procure data from any commercial lunar surface missions and/or return payloads or samples to the Earth,” the RFI states.
“NASA has identified a variety of exploration, science, and technology demonstration objectives that could be addressed by sending instruments, experiments, or other payloads to the lunar surface. To address these objectives as cost-effectively as possible, NASA may procure payloads and related commercial payload delivery services to the Moon,” the request adds.
Currently, the only known FAA-licensed commercial mission to the lunar surface will be conducted by Moon Express. The company plans to launch a lander and hopper to the moon this year in an attempt to win the $20 million first prize in the Google Lunar X Prize.
Synergy Moon, an international team with U.S. members, has a contract to launch its mission to the moon later this year on an Interorbital Systems rocket off the California coast.
Astrobotic, which recently dropped out of the competition, has said it still plans to launch a rover to the moon. However, it will not do so by the end of 2017, which is a requirement to compete in the prize.
SpaceX has announced plans to send two people around the moon in a modified Dragon spacecraft. The company has said nothing about landing anything on the surface, but it’s possible the mission’s booster, Falcon Heavy, could include secondary payloads.
It looks as if Team SpaceIL is out of the $30 million Google Lunar XPrize.
Quartzreports the Israeli team will not be able to launch its lander/rover to the moon aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 booster until some time next year — too late to meet the end-of-2017 deadline required to win the prize.
Moon Express has announced that it has raised $20 million in a Series B funding round from Founders Fund, Autodesk and Collaborative Fund.
The company says it is fully funded to land a spacecraft on the moon later this year. The flight will be an attempt to win the $20 million first prize in the Google Lunar X Prize for the first privately built vehicle to land on the moon and travel 500 meters across the surface. There is a $5 million prize for the second team to achieve the goal.
Moon Express’ spacecraft will launch on a Rocket Lab Electron rocket. Rocket Lab expects to launch the Electron on its first flight test in February.
It’s going to be busy year in space in 2017. Here’s a look at what we can expect over the next 12 months.
A New Direction for NASA?
NASA’s focus under the Obama Administration has been to try to commercialize Earth orbit while creating a foundation that would allow the space agency to send astronauts to Mars in the 2030’s.
Whether Mars will remain a priority under the incoming Trump Administration remains to be seen. There is a possibility Trump will refocus the space agency on lunar missions instead.
Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), who is currently viewed as a leading candidate for NASA administrator, has written two blog posts focused on the importance of exploring the moon and developing its resources. Of course, whether Bridenstine will get NASA’s top job is unclear at this time.