Moon Express Announces Plan for Solar System Exploration

Moon Express Announces Plan for Solar System Exploration

Cape Canaveral, Florida-based Moon Express CEO Bob Richards has confirmed that his firm is working on a fleet of low-priced robotic spacecraft that could be assembled like Legos to handle complex space missions. If they succeed in completing this phase by the end of the year, they will have a shot at the $20 million prize.

Moon Express has raised more than $45 million from private investors to build its first spacecraft and buy launch services.

The GLXP mission won't be the last lunar voyage for Moon Express, if all goes according to plan. Other teams in the running include SpaceIL from Israel, the worldwide team Synergy Moon, TeamIndus from India and Hakuto from Japan.

The second mission, "Lunar Outpost", is planned for 2019 and will aim to set up a research outpost at the moon's South Pole.

Moon Express will use a newly designed "eco-friendly" engine to build its MX Robotic Explorers.

MX-1, a cylindered shaped robot with legs, is capable of delivering up to approximately 66 pounds of cargo to the moon.

Those lunar samples would be the first to return to the USA since 1972.

The third mission Moon Express hopes to launch before 2020 is called Harvest Moon.

The startup, based out of Cape Canaveral, Florida, is poised to launch its MX-1E lander by the end of 2017 - which is a criteria that must be met by all of the remaining Lunar X Prize competitors - but it's already setting its sights a future beyond the contest. The moon's poles have water and other organic compounds that may be valuable resources. A lunar research outpost will be established to prospect for water and useful materials.

The MX-5 is described as the "lunar workhorse" and can be fitted with a variety of configurations incorporating MX-1 systems.

Moon Express also revealed more detail on the crafts that have been developed to achieve these lofty goals.

Besides vying for the X Prize, Moon Express will fly science equipment and payloads for at least three paying customers, including Houston-based Celestis, which offers memorial spaceflights for cremated remains.

"Our MX family are vehicle-agnostic", Moon Express CEO Bob Richards said in a presentation, according to The Verge. The Electron rocket, made by private spaceflight company Rocket Lab, is slated to carry Lunar Scout but has never yet reached orbit. The company just had its first liftoff in May, becoming the first orbital-class rocket to do some from a private launch complex.

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