Two Colorado Companies Among Those Selected By NASA For Commercial Lunar Payload Delivery Services

Image Credit: NASA

November 29, 2018 – NASA has selected nine U.S. companies – including Littleton-based Lockheed Martin and Deep Space Systems — to bid on NASA delivery services to the lunar surface through Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) contracts. The goal of CLPS is to enable scientific study and human exploration of the Moon and help prepare the agency to send astronauts to explore Mars. Lunar payloads could fly on these contracted missions as early as 2019.

Selected companies will be able to bid on delivering science and technology payloads for NASA, including payload integration and operations, launching from Earth and landing on the surface of the Moon. NASA expects to be one of many customers that will use these commercial landing services.

“Today’s announcement marks tangible progress in America’s return to the Moon’s surface to stay,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “The innovation of America’s aerospace companies, wedded with our big goals in science and human exploration, are going to help us achieve amazing things on the Moon and feed forward to Mars.”

NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) initiated the request for proposals leading to these selections as the first step in achieving a variety of science and technology objectives that could be addressed by regularly sending instruments, experiments and other small payloads to the Moon. SMD serves as the NASA interface between the agency’s mission directorates, the scientific community, and other external stakeholders in developing a strategy to enable an integrated approach for robotic and human exploration within NASA’s Moon to Mars Exploration Campaign.

Lockheed Martin’s McCandless Lunar Lander

This rendering of Lockheed Martin’s McCandless Lunar Lander shows a notional large payload, and commonality with the proven InSight and Phoenix Mars landers. Image Credit: PRNewsfoto/Lockheed Martin

Lockheed Martin’s McCandless Lunar Lander was selected to provide payload delivery services as part of NASA’s CLPS contract. Lockheed Martin’s lander design builds on four decades of experience engineering deep space missions, including Mars landers. The McCandless Lunar Lander is based on the proven design of the InSight lander, which just touched down on the Martian surface on Monday, November 26, and the Phoenix lander, which successfully arrived at Mars in May 2008.

“We are excited to leverage our interplanetary lander designs and experience to help NASA build a new economy on and around the Moon, and beyond,” said Lisa Callahan, vice president and general manager for Commercial Civil Space at Lockheed Martin. “Lockheed Martin has built more interplanetary spacecraft than all other U.S. companies combined, including four successful Mars landers. With our expertise on Orion and the NextSTEP lunar habitat, we can maximize the value of CLPS for lunar science operations as well as the path forward to tomorrow’s reusable human lander.”

The McCandless Lunar Lander is capable of transporting large payloads weighing hundreds of kilograms – including stationary scientific instruments, deployable rovers, or even sample return vehicles – to the surface of the Moon. The lander uses a proven propulsive landing approach that relies upon on-board radars and a set of rocket thrusters firing 10 times a second to slow to just five mph before touching down. Once on the lunar surface, the lander can provide power, communications and thermal management for sophisticated payloads.

The McCandless Lunar Lander is named in honor of the late Bruce McCandless, a NASA astronaut and longtime Lockheed Martin employee who was a pioneer in space exploration. McCandless is best known for conducting the first untethered spacewalk using the Lockheed Martin-built Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU) during a flight on the space shuttle. He originally joined the astronaut corps during the Apollo program and served as the voice of mission control for Neil Armstrong’s famous moonwalk. After retiring from NASA he was instrumental in the design of exploration technology and training the next generation of planetary explorers during his tenure at Lockheed Martin.

Deep Space Systems Commercial Lunar Rover

This illustration shows a draft concept for a commercial lunar rover from Deep Space Systems, Inc., Littleton, Colo. Deep Space Systems is one of nine companies selected for NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services program. NASA will solicit bids from the companies to provide lunar payloads and services. Image Credit: Deep Space Systems

Deep Space Systems (DSS) of Littleton, Colorado, also has a venerable track record of NASA missions. Deep Space Systems personnel have supported the design, development, integration, test and operations of a fleet of exploration spacecraft including Mars Reconnaisance Orbiter (MRO), Odyssey, Phoenix Lander, Orion, Mars Exploration Rovers, Stardust, Juno, GRAIL, and GOES-R.

DSS typically subcontracts to industry prime contractors such as Lockheed Martin, NASA and NASA centers such as the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, developing system engineering products unique to each contract, but has a wealth of experience that spans the system life cycle including proposal support, integration and testing of flight spacecraft, and operation and analysis of spacecraft in flight.

DSS was established in 2001 and is an award-winning Woman Owned Small Business.

In addition to Lockheed Martin and Deep Space Systems, the selected companies are:

  • Astrobotic Technology, Inc.: Pittsburgh
  • Deep Space Systems: Littleton, Colorado
  • Draper: Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • Firefly Aerospace, Inc.: Cedar Park, Texas
  • Intuitive Machines, LLC: Houston
  • Lockheed Martin Space: Littleton, Colorado
  • Masten Space Systems, Inc.: Mojave, California
  • Moon Express: Cape Canaveral, Florida
  • Orbit Beyond: Edison, New Jersey
  • The Commercial Lunar Payload Services contracts are indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contracts with a combined maximum contract value of $2.6 billion during the next 10 years. The agency will look at a number of factors when comparing bids, such as technical feasibility, price and scheduling.

    In October, NASA issued a call for potential lunar instruments and technologies to study the Moon, with proposals due in January. These early missions will enable important technology demonstrations that will inform the development of future landers and other exploration systems needed for humans to return to the lunar surface, and help prepare the agency to send astronauts to explore Mars.

    NASA will re-examine the private market periodically for new and emerging lunar delivery capabilities, and may offer additional companies an opportunity to join Commercial Lunar Payload Services through a contract process called on-ramping.