NASA Picks Firefly Aerospace for Robotic Delivery to Far Side of Moon
To carry multiple payloads to the far side of the Moon, including a satellite to orbit that area, NASA has selected Firefly Aerospace of Cedar Park, Texas. The commercial lander will deliver two agency payloads, as well as a communication and data relay satellite for lunar orbit, which is a European Space Agency (ESA) collaboration with NASA.
The contract award, for just under $112 million, is a commercial lunar delivery targeted to launch in 2026 through NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services, or CLPS, initiative, and part of the agency’s Artemis program.
This delivery targets a landing site for the two payloads on the far side of the Moon, a place that permanently faces away from Earth. Scientists consider this one of the best locations in the solar system for making radio observations shielded from the noise generated by our home planet. The sensitive observations need to take place during the 14-Earth-day-long lunar night.
One of these payloads delivered to the lunar surface aims to take advantage of this radio-quiet zone to make low-frequency astrophysics measurements of the cosmos, focusing on a time known as the “Dark Ages,” a cosmic era that began some 370,000 years after the Big Bang and lasted until the first stars and galaxies formed. Since there is no line of sight and no direct communication with Earth from the far side of the Moon, Firefly also is required to provide communication services.
Firefly is responsible for end-to-end delivery services, including payload integration, delivery from Earth to the surface and orbit of the Moon, and NASA payload operations for the first lunar day. This is the second award to Firefly under the CLPS initiative. This award is the ninth surface delivery task award issued to a CLPS vendor, and the second to the far side.
The three payloads slated for delivery are expected to weigh in total about 494.5 kilograms (1,090 pounds). These payloads are Lunar Surface Electromagnetics Experiment-Night (LuSEE-Night), Lunar Pathfinder, and User Terminal (UT).
Commercial deliveries to the lunar surface with several providers continue to be part of NASA’s exploration efforts. Future CLPS deliveries could include more science experiments and technology demonstrations that further support the agency’s Artemis program.
Learn more about CLPS at http://www.nasa.gov/CLPS.