Moon Express hopes to become the first private spaceflight company to send a robotic lander to the moon, scoop up some moon dust, load it into a small return vehicle, and send it back to Earth.
In one small step for space business, Moon Express has won U.S. regulatory approval – under the 104-nation Outer Space Treaty — to become the first ever private company to fly to the Moon.
At the heart of the company’s plans is a single-stage spacecraft, similar in size and shape to the R2-D2 droid from Star Wars, but a little bigger.
Launched from New Zealand, as the payload on Rocket Lab’s Electron launcher, the MX-1’s PECO rocket engine uses highly refined kerosene fuel (RP-1) which is oxidised using hydrogen peroxide.
The PECO engine will serve as the common core for all the planned MX vehicles, including the MX-9 which will launch in 2020 to collect — and return to Earth — the first-ever privately-owned lunar samples.
MX-9 will search in areas rich in ancient volcanic deposits for evidence of water. Nearly a decade ago, tiny amounts of water, just 0.05 percent water by weight, were detected in volcanic glass beads brought back from the surface of the Moon by Apollo 15 and 17.Recent data from India’s Chandrayaan-1 lunar orbiter suggests that the pyroclastic flows of ancient lava that left those beads could provide a source of water to support a lunar base
Spaceflight company Moon Express has released its plans to mine the moon with robots and it aims to get started by 2020. The company was founded in 2010 with the aim of winning the Google Lunar Xprize – a competition to get privately funded spacecraft on the moon. And while it still has its sights on that prize, Moon Express has planned beyond that and has laid out a strategy for establishing its lunar outpost in just a few years.
The company’s first moon mission, dubbed Lunar Scout, will use Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket to send its MX-1E robotic explorer to land on and deliver several payloads — including the International Lunar Observatory — to the moon. If completed by the end of this year and before the four other finalists for the Lunar Xprize, this mission could win Moon Express the competition’s $20 million prize.
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