Successful LAnder FLight TEst
Silicon Valley, CA (June 30, 2011) - Moon Express, Inc. today announced a successful flight test of a prototype lunar lander system being developed in partnership with NASA. The company signed a Reimbursable Space Act Agreement with NASA last year to invest over $500K into the commercialization of technology developed by the agency. The agreement is aimed at developing new low-cost spacecraft able to deliver scientific and exploration payloads to the Moon and other destinations. The flight test marks an important milestone in the collaborative agreement, demonstrating that innovative public-private partnerships can be utilized to establish new capabilities of mutual benefit to commercial space companies and NASA.
For Moon Express, the opportunity to commercialize NASA knowledge and technology to create a commercially viable lunar lander system is a force multiplier of its private investment. Small spacecraft missions promise great value given their significantly lower cost structure, rapid development and deployment schedules, resulting in more frequent missions within a set budget and timeframe compared to the status quo. The Moon Express partnership agreement with NASA is consistent with initiatives to embrace commercial entities to help move the whole industry forward.
The successful milestone involved a controlled flight test of a Landing Test Vehicle (LTV). The LTV is a prototype robotic lunar lander system, outfitted with a cold gas propulsion system and landing gear for use in a confined, ground test environment for relatively easy, quick, and repeatable ground testing. The LTV offers a unique capability to safely perform risk reduction and testing on candidate spacecraft hardware and software in an actual flight environment. The LTV tests are allowing Moon Express to assess lunar vehicle design, including guidance, navigation and control software and new landing leg and mobility concepts designed by Moon Express engineers. The LTV is also being used to test a new mini-radar sensor developed by Moon Express under NASA’s Innovative Lunar Demonstrations Data (ILDD) program.
The company plans to send a series of robotic spacecraft to the Moon for ongoing exploration and commercial development focused on benefits to Earth. “I believe in the long term economic potential of the Moon to produce resources essential to Earth’s energy future,” said Naveen Jain, Co-Founder and Chairman of Moon Express. “The recent discovery of abundant water on the Moon is the key we needed to economically liberate valuable lunar resources such as Helium-3 and platinum group metals to improve life here on Earth.”
Dr. Barney Pell, Co-Founder, CTO and Vice Chairman of Moon Express, believes that exploration and development of lunar resources is one of the most important activities for humanity’s future. “The Moon has never been explored before from an entrepreneurial perspective,” he said. “I believe the Moon may be the greatest wealth creation opportunity in history. It's not a question of if; just of who and when.
Moon Express plans to adapt NASA’s Common Spacecraft Bus for use in small, low cost spacecraft designed to deliver payloads to a variety of locations, including lunar orbit and lunar surface, Low Earth Orbit (LEO), Earth-Moon Lagrange points, and Near Earth Objects (NEOs). The Common Spacecraft Bus design allows the company to design low cost missions, launch on a variety of commercial rockets and deliver flexible payloads to the lunar surface and various orbits.
The company views NASA’s partnership as exemplary of a commitment to help nurture the burgeoning commercial spacecraft industry. Under the agreement, Moon Express is reimbursing NASA for technical assistance interpreting NASA designs of the Common Spacecraft Bus for applicability to the company’s new lunar vehicle design and in the evaluation and testing of new spacecraft systems and software in a newly refitted hover test facility.
Following the successful flight test, Moon Express CEO, Dr. Robert (Bob) Richards stated that White House policies supporting NASA’s openness to commercial partnerships combined with Silicon Valley culture has been a winning combination for the company. “Locating the company in the NASA Research Park puts us at the crossroads of the future,” Richards said. “Silicon Valley has embraced commercial space and Moon Express is benefitted greatly by our proximity to the NASA Ames Research Center.”
About Moon Express
Selected by Forbes as one of the ’15 Names You Should Know’, Moon Express is a privately funded lunar transportation and data services company based at the NASA Ames Research Park in Silicon Valley. Moon Express was founded by Naveen Jain, a philanthropist, entrepreneur and technology pioneer who founded Intelius and InfoSpace and serves as chairman; Dr. Robert (Bob) Richards, a founder of International Space University, who serves as CEO; and Dr. Barney Pell, Chief Architect for Bing Local Search at Microsoft and former NASA manager, who serves as Vice Chairman and Chief Technology Officer. The Moon Express co-founders also work together as trustees of Singularity University.
Moon Express emerged quickly onto the stage last year when the company was selected by NASA for a lunar data services contract worth up to $10M. It was also one of only three U.S. companies to receive a $500K delivery order under NASA’s Innovative Lunar Demonstrations Data (ILDD) program. Moon Express is also a leading contender in the $30M Google Lunar X PRIZE (GLXP) competition, which challenges privately funded teams to place a robot on the Moon’s surface that travels 500 meters and transmits high definition video, images and data back to Earth.