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In Images: How Moon Express' Solar System Exploration Plan Works

Moon Express' Grand Plan

Moon Express

On July 12, 2017, Moon Express unveiled an exploration architecture

FIRST: MX-1 and Destination Moon

Destination: Moon

Moon Express

An artist's impression showing the single-stage MX-1E spacecraft descending toward the lunar surface carrying a suite of science and exploration instruments. The MX-1E can deliver up to 66 lbs. (30 kilograms) to the lunar surface, Moon Express representatives said.

NEXT: The MX-1E Has Landed

The MX-1E Has Landed

Moon Express

The MX-1E lander sits on the lunar surface in this artist's illustration. Moon Express plans to the launch the MX-1E, which uses eco-friendly fuels, toward the moon later this year.

NEXT: MX-2 Brings Double Capacity

MX-2: Double the Size

Moon Express

The MX-2 doubles the capability of the MX-1 in Earth-moon space and brings the inner solar system within reach, Moon Express representatives said.

NEXT: MX-5 on the Moon

MX-5 on the Moon

Moon Express

Moon Express' MX-5 craft will be able to deliver 330 lbs. (150 kilograms) to lunar orbit from low Earth orbit, with a range of configurations to support lunar landing and Earth-moon operations. The vehicle can also be outfitted with MX-1 or MX-2 staged systems that can bring the entire solar system within reach, Moon Express representatives said.

NEXT: The Beefy MX-9

The Beefy MX-9

Moon Express

Artist's illustration of Moon Express' nine-engine MX-9 spacecraft, which will be capable of delivering 1,100 lbs. (500 kilograms) to the lunar surface from geostationary transfer orbit. Like the MX-5, the MX-9 can be outfitted with MX-1 or MX-2 staged systems, Moon Express representatives said.

NEXT: Collecting Lunar Samples

Collecting Lunar Samples

Moon Express

The MX-9 spacecraft collects lunar samples for return to Earth in this screenshot from a Moon Express animation.

NEXT: MX-9 Transfers Samples

MX-9 Transfers Samples

Moon Express

The MX-9 spacecraft transfers lunar samples to its onboard ascent vehicle in this screenshot from a Moon Express animation.

NEXT: The MX-9 Ascending

The MX-9 Ascending

Moon Express

Artist's impression of the MX-9 return vehicle launching from the moon toward Earth carrying lunar samples.

NEXT: Jettisoning the Return Capsule

Jettisoning the Return Capsule

Moon Express

The MX-9's ascent vehicle jettisons its return capsule, which is carrying samples collecting on the lunar surface.

NEXT: Coming to Earth

Coming to Earth

Moon Express

The MX-9's return capsule heads toward Earth. Moon Express' planned architecture could make sample-return missions such as the one depicted in this animation cheaper and more accessible to a variety of customers, company representatives said.

Mike Wall
SPACE.COM SENIOR SPACE WRITER — Michael has been writing for Space.com since 2010. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter. 

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