'Moonspike' Kickstarter Project Aims to Crowdfund Rocket to the Moon

This Moonspike graphic depicts the private project's mission plan to launch a crowdfunded rocket and slam a titanium probe into the moon's surface. Moonspike's Kickstarter crowdfunding project launched on Oct. 1, 2015.
This Moonspike graphic depicts the private project's mission plan to launch a crowdfunded rocket and slam a titanium probe into the moon's surface. Moonspike's Kickstarter crowdfunding project launched on Oct. 1, 2015. (Image credit: Moonspike)

A team of rocketeers launched an out-of-this-world Kickstarter campaign today (Oct. 1) to raise $1 million for "Moonspike" – an ambitious project to launch the first crowdfunded rocket to the moon.

The Moonspike project aims to launch a small titanium payload carrying photos and videos from project backers into space, and ultimately crash it into the moon. The resulting dust plume from the impact should observable from orbit, its backers say. While a science return from the mission would be desirable, the main goal is to see if a small group of engineers can create a moon rocket and payload for a reasonable amount of money, Chris Larmour, a co-founder of the project and serial space entrepreneur, told Space.com in an e-mail. It's the first campaign of its kind, with the Kickstarter page going live at 7 a.m. ET (1100 GMT) today.

"We've been working hard to develop our rocket and spacecraft designs over the past few months and today we are opening up our feasibility study document to the public," Larmour said. The other co-founder is Kristian von Bengtson, also a co-founder of Danish private space travel group Cophenhagen Suborbitals. [Related: How Crowdfunding Helps Spur Space Projects]

While the rocket has yet to be built, and the launch site and date determined, the design is as flexible as possible for different latitudes of launch site, Larmour said. It calls for a 22-ton, two-stage, liquid-fueled launch vehicle that can get a spacecraft (a third stage) of about 331 lbs. (150 kilograms) to Earth orbit to send to the moon, Larmour said. Most of the work will be done in-house by a small team to contain costs, he added.

"If we get backing we will move to a more detailed design as the next phase, and start building components fairly quickly," he said, but did not specify a date.

As Moonspike is a young company, the founders chose Kickstarter because they felt that traditional angel investors (individual backers with deep pockets) or venture capitalists (companies that invest in startups) would not be interested in taking on the risk, Larmour said.

The crowdfunding campaign will be "all or nothing," he acknowledged, with no Plan B if they don't raise the desired million. But if it does end up working out, the group plans to raise several tens of millions of dollars more through more traditional equity financing routes. The initial Kickstarter money will be used for hardware development and other setup to make investors more interested in the product, he added.

This Moonspike graphic depicts the components of the rocket designed to launch the project's moon probe. (Image credit: Moonspike)

A team of seven people are working directly on the project, with four other "experienced business people" on the board of directors, Larmour said.

"The team we have gathered have both professional training with organizations like NASA and hands-on experience building rockets at Copenhagen Suborbitals, a private team of amateur rocket builders who designed and built several successful rockets on a shoestring budget during the past 7 years. The vehicles this team have designed and launched include the 9.3m tall [30.5 feet], liquid-fueled HEAT-1X, and the actively guided 5.3m Sapphire rocket," he wrote.

An artist's illustration of the private Moonspike rocket launching on a crowdfunded mission to send a titanium probe to the moon. The Moonspike Kickstarter project launched on Oct. 1, 2015. (Image credit: Moonspike)

As regulations are believed to be one of the key risks to mitigate, the group has already started discussions with the UK Space Agency to learn the ropes.

The Moonspike Kickstarter campaign will run for 30 days. One of the perks offered to backers will be putting their personal images, videos or data on a "memory vault" inside the Moonspike payload. Outside of Kickstarter, a major sponsor will have the option of pressing the launch button.

Follow Elizabeth Howell @howellspace, or Space.com @Spacedotcom. We're also on Facebook and Google+. Original article on Space.com.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for Space.com for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace