We now know which companies hitch a ride to the moon with Spaceflight Inc. as part of a robotic lunar landing mission by Intuitive Machines in 2022.
While the Intuitive Machines Nova C-lander is en route to the moon during its mission, slated to launch in late 2022, a rideshare from Spaceflight Inc. will deliver a payload from a new company called GeoJump, Spaceflight said in an announcement today (Sept. 14). (The rideshare with Spaceflight was announced Aug. 18, but the names of the participating companies were only just disclosed.)
GeoJump is a new company offering its own rideshare opportunity within Spaceflight's rideshare, it appears. According to Spaceflight, the GeoJump payload will also be joined by an Orbit Fab in-space fueling payload.
Orbit Fab previously received funding from Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman to test in-orbit refueling in space; the technology is still in its infancy and may prove useful to drive down the cost of lunar missions.
Orbit Fab's payload will be delivered into a lunar flyby pathway using Spaceflight's Sherpa-ES, an orbital transfer vehicle meant to place satellites in cislunar space (meaning, the area nearby the moon.) Spaceflight Inc. has already tested several Sherpa vehicles in Earth orbit since 2018.
"This mission will demonstrate our complete mission toolbox and ability to execute complex, groundbreaking and exciting missions beyond LEO [low Earth orbit]," Grant Bonin, Spaceflight's senior vice-president of business development, said in the statement.
The newly announced companies will piggy on to a moon landing mission funded through NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program. The agency selected Intuitive Machines, along with Astrobotic and Orbit Beyond, in May 2019 to deliver science experiments and technology demonstrations to the moon.
In October 2020, NASA further announced (opens in new tab) it would award Intuitive Machines $47 million to place a water-measuring payload on the moon's south pole in 2022, called Polar Resources Ice Mining Experiment (PRIME-1). In August 2021, Intuitive announced it would launch its mission aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
CLPS is meant to service the space agency's Artemis program that aims to put human boots on the surface around 2024, although some technical and funding obstacles and an interruption to Artemis' human landing system contract due to a lawsuit may push the landing back.
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