Washington, April 9 (IANS) NASA has selected a California-based company called Masten Space Systems to deliver and operate eight payloads to the Moon's South Pole in 2022, to help lay the foundation for human expeditions to the lunar surface beginning in 2024.
The payloads, which include nine instruments to assess the composition of the lunar surface, test precision landing technologies, and evaluate the radiation on the Moon, are being delivered under NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative as part of the agency's Artemis programme, the US space agency said on Wednesday.
The $75.9 million award includes end-to-end services for delivery of the instruments, including payload integration, launch from Earth, landing on the Moon's surface, and operation for at least 12 days.
Masten Space Systems will land these payloads on the Moon with its XL-1 lander, NASA said.
“Commercial industry is critical to making our vision for lunar exploration a reality. The science and technology we are sending to the lunar surface ahead of our crewed missions will help us understand the lunar environment better than we ever have before,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement.
“These CLPS (Commercial Lunar Payload Services ) deliveries are on the cutting edge of our work to do great science and support human exploration of the Moon. I'm happy to welcome another of our innovative companies to the group that is ready to start taking our payloads to the Moon as soon as possible,” Bridenstine said.
The payloads that will be delivered have been developed predominantly from the two recent NASA Provided Lunar Payloads (NPLP) and Lunar Surface Instrument and Technology Payloads (LSITP) solicitations.
Due to challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, NASA is leveraging virtual presence and communications tools to safely make progress on these important lunar exploration activities, and to award this lunar surface delivery as it was scheduled prior to the pandemic.