NASA Awards Second CLPS Mission To Firefly

Firefly Aerospace, a Texas-based business, has recently been given NASA’s second Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) mission. The mission is for a moon trip using their Blue Ghost lander. A European satellite will be launched into lunar orbit as part of the $112 million mission. It is slated to launch in 2026. Payloads will settle on the moon’s far side.

Another satellite will accompany the NASA satellite into lunar orbit on the Blue Ghost 2 mission launch. This is unlike earlier CLPS missions. Other spacecraft on or near the moon can use the Lunar Pathfinder spacecraft. This spacecraft is being developed by Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. for the European Space Agency. With the help of CLPS, NASA will launch Lunar Pathfinder, allowing it to be used for communications later on.

The Lunar Surface Electromagnetics Experiment-Night (LuSEE-Night) payload is being created through the collaboration of various entities. They include NASA, the University of California Berkeley, and the Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory. It will be delivered to the far side of the moon by the Blue Ghost lander. LUSEE-Night will make use of the radio-quiet settings on the lunar far side. Through this, it will conduct radio astronomy investigations of the early universe.

Together with supporting LUSEE-Night and launching Lunar Pathfinder, the lander will also carry a new communications system for NASA. In a statement, Firefly Aerospace announced that the spacecraft will be able to transport more payloads for additional governmental and commercial customers.

This honor is the second that Firefly has received from CLPS. The near side of the moon’s Mare Crisium is where the first CLPS mission is planned to settle when it launches in 2024. It was approved in 2021. 10 payloads from NASA and 2 commercial payloads will be carried by it.

According to Firefly, the Blue Ghost 2 mission will utilize both the lander and a transfer stage to put Lunar Pathfinder into orbit and touchdown on the moon. From lunar sample return to interplanetary expeditions, that system might be employed in numerous scenarios.

The award given to Firefly is the 9th overall in the CLPS program, distributed among five businesses. Three CLPS task orders have been awarded to Intuitive Machines. The first mission of the company, IM-1, is slated to launch later this year. Two missions were awarded to the company. One in 2024 to carry NASA’s VIPER lunar rover. The other is scheduled in May for Astrobotic’s Peregrine lander to launch on the first Vulcan Centaur rocket, which was awarded to the company.

The debut farside CLPS mission, which will launch in 2025, was awarded to Draper by the mission order. In 2020, Masten Space Systems received a ninth mission order. However, its future is still up in the air because Masten filed for bankruptcy the previous year. Astrobotic ended up buying the majority of its assets.

For lunar scientific and technology demonstration payloads, Several years back, NASA initiated the CLPS program to provide economical access to the moon. The agency representatives stressed the “shots-on-goal” approach for CLPS, with the understanding that not all missions would be successful.

Scientists who are preparing to launch payloads on CLPS missions are still optimistic about the possibility of enhancing lunar exploration thanks to this technology. For us to conduct lunar science on the entire lunar surface, the CLPS program will open new opportunities. Science is advanced by it. It encourages competition among the various service providers. Hopefully, it creates this new economy. In addition to this, it is hoped to propel technological advancements and innovations that we can employ here on Earth as well.