Privately-owned USA firm plans to land spacecraft on Moon

14 July, 2017, 00:51 | Author: Sherri Guerrero
  • Moon Express reveals plans for private exploration of the moon

If Moon Express pulls off the Lunar Scout landing with the MX-1E before the end of the year, it will be a triumph for space exploration.

The MX-2 spacecraft design is double the size and capability of the MX-1.

The MX series of spacecraft also can be scaled up for travel to other destinations, such as the moons of Mars.

The vehicles would all be able to work as landers, orbiters or deep space probes, according to Moon Express. The Florida-based company Moon Express has raised over $45 million in funding for three expeditions that will culminate in a mission to mine moon rocks and return them to Earth.

The company, which was founded in 2010, has a goal listed on its website that in 2020 its "Expedition "Harvest Moon" sets up permanent research outpost and returns first non-government lunar samples to Earth". Both the MX-5 and MX-9 could be outfitted with MX-1 or MX-2 stages that could separate from the main spacecraft and fly on their own.

Recently, the company revealed its plans to get its mission up and running. In this phase, the company plans to collect samples from the Earth's satellite back to the planet in 2020.

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The first post-GLXP mission, scheduled to launch in 2019, will set up a robotic research outpost near the lunar south pole and prospect for water and other resources. The Spurring Private Aerospace Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship (SPACE) Act of 2015 encourages commercial exploitation of resources in space, as long as they're not alive. The MX-1E is Moon Express' entry into the Google Lunar X Prize, an worldwide competition to send the first private robotic spacecraft to the surface of the Moon.

That first mission will seal the deal on the $20 million if Moon Express beats its global competitors.

The company, which operates facilities at Cape Canaveral, is working to complete some of the unfinished components of the MX-1E lander. One being that Rocket Lab has only tested their Electron rocket once and while it successfully reached space, it didn't reach orbit.

The launch company, Rocket Lab, is still developing its Electron rocket. That craft, the Mx-1E, then becomes a building block for bigger craft.

The core piece of hardware to make all of that happen is a single-engine lander called the MX-1, which will launch on the GLXP flight. The launch deadline is the end of 2017, so Moon Express hopes to launch Lunar Scout, its first planned expedition, this year.

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