The US space agency on Thursday (Nov 29) announced nine private companies, mostly start-ups, that will bid on US$2.6 billion in contracts to build spacecraft to carry payloads to the Moon as early as 2019.
The approach will allow NASA to cut costs, Bridenstine said. "Working with US companies is the next step to achieving long-term scientific study and human exploration of the Moon and Mars", NASA said in a statement.
Earlier this year, NASA cancelled its only robotic vehicle under development to explore the surface of the Moon, known as the Resource Prospector (RP) mission. Under this framework, NASA hopes to have its next rocket combination, the Space Launch System and Orion capsule, fly to the Moon by 2020 with crewed flights planned for 2023.
NASA already is utilizing the private sector on a commercial basis.
Masten Space Systems is developing the XL-1 lander for CLPS.
"Think of it like venture capital".
NASA is providing no development money for any of the CLPS companies, who will have to raise the funding needed for their landers from other sources.
"We're no stranger to commercial space business models, having built more than 100 commercial satellites and launched numerous Atlas and Titan commercial payloads", said Lisa Callahan, vice president and general manager for Commercial Civil Space at Lockheed Martin.
The companies themselves made only a cameo appearance at the event, briefly appearing on stage but making no remarks.
The Space Directive prompted NASA to establish The Exploration Campaign, a national and agency effort focused on three core domains: low Earth orbit; lunar orbit and surface; and Mars and other deep space objectives. As part of a push to continue American leadership in space, the Directive instructs NASA to develop a flexible deep space infrastructure to support the increasing complexity of missions.
Masten's XL-1 lander has two payload bays with the capacity of delivering an estimated 220 lbs (100 kilograms) of mass to the lunar surface.
India and Israel also plan to launch lunar landers next year. You might recognize these companies from the Lunar X Prize. Team Indus, based in Bangalore, India, is not eligible itself for a CLPS award because of NASA requirements that companies be based in the United States, with development work done domestically.
Orbit Beyond: A New Jersey-based company building spacecraft bound for the Moon.
Trump's administration was clear in its directive requesting that the NASA Administrator shall, 'Lead an innovative and sustainable program of exploration with commercial and worldwide partners to enable human expansion across the solar system and to bring back to Earth new knowledge and opportunities. "Growing from the NASA Centennial Lander Challenge through working with NASA CATALYST (Lunar Cargo Transportation and Landing by Soft Touchdown) and now CLPS is very exciting!"