Moon Express

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Moon Express
Industry Aerospace
Founded 2010
Headquarters Cape Canaveral, FL 32920
Key people
Robert D. Richards, Naveen Jain, Barney Pell
Footnotes / references
Moon Express'es machines are designed to look for materials that are scarce on Earth

Moon Express (MoonEx), is an American privately held early-stage company formed by a group of Silicon Valley and space entrepreneurs, with the goal winning the Google Lunar X Prize, and of ultimately mining the Moon for natural resources of economic value.[1][2]


In August 2010,[3] Robert D. Richards,[4] Naveen Jain,[5] and Barney Pell co-founded Moon Express, a Mountain View, California-based company that plans to offer commercial lunar robotic transportation and data services with a long-term goal of mining the Moon for resources,[6] including elements that are rare on Earth, including niobium, yttrium and dysprosium.[1][7] Moon Express based itself at the NASA Ames Research Center from 2010 to 2015, and the company announced its relocation to Florida's Cape Canaveral in 2015.[8]

Moon Express and NASA signed a contract in October 2010[9] for data purchase that could be worth up to US$10,000,000.[1][10]

In mid-2012, Moon Express started work with the International Lunar Observatory Association (ILOA) to put a shoebox-sized astronomical telescope called International Lunar Observatory on the Moon.[11]

By 2012, MoonEx had 20 employees, and in December 2012, MoonEx acquired one of the other Google Lunar X-Prize teams, Rocket City Space Pioneers, from Dynetics for an undisclosed sum. The agreement made Tim Pickens, the former lead of the RCSP team, the Chief Propulsion Engineer for MoonEx.[12] In September 2013, MoonEx added Paul Spudis as Chief Scientist and Jack Burns as Science Advisory Board Chair.[13]

In October 2015, Moon Express signed a contract with Rocket Lab to launch three Moon Express robotic spacecraft to land on the Moon, with two launches manifested in 2017, utilizing an Electron launch vehicle.[14] In July 2016, Moon Express stated it would be taking over Cape Canaveral Launch Complexes 17 and 18.[15]

On July 20, 2016, the Federal Aviation Administration approved Moon Express plans for a mission to deliver commercial payloads to the Moon, making Moon Express the first private company to receive government approval for a commercial space mission beyond traditional Earth orbit under the requirements of the Outer Space Treaty.[16][17]

At 7am EDT (1100 GMT) on 12 July 2018, both historic launch towers at Space Launch Complex 17 were demolished via controlled demolition to make way for Moon Express facilities to test its lunar lander.[18]


Moon Express is partnered with NASA through a Reimbursable Space Act Agreement that allowed Moon Express to invest over $500K into the commercialization of technology developed by NASA.[4] On June 30, 2011, the company held its first successful test flight of a prototype lunar lander system called the Lander Test Vehicle (LTV) that was developed in partnership with NASA.[4] On September 11, 2011 Moon Express set up a robotics lab for a lunar probe named the "Moon Express Robotics Lab for INnovation" (MERLIN) and hired several engineering students who had successfully competed at the FIRST Robotics Competition.

In October and November 2013, Moon Express conducted several free flight tests of its flight software utilizing the NASA Mighty Eagle lander test vehicle, under a Reimbursable Space Act Agreement with the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center.[19] One month later, in December 2013, MoonEx unveiled the MX-1 lunar lander, a toroidal robotic lander that uses high-test hydrogen peroxide as its rocket propellant to support vertical landing on the lunar surface.[20] On April 30, 2014 NASA announced that Moon Express was one of the three companies selected for the Lunar CATALYST initiative,[21] an agreement which was extended on October 31, 2017 for 2 more years.[22]

By December 2014, Moon Express successfully conducted flight tests of its "MTV-1X" lander test vehicle at the Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility, becoming the first private company (and GLXP team) to demonstrate a commercial lunar lander test.[23]

Google Lunar XPRIZE

The company was a competitor in the Google Lunar X Prize.[24] By October 2015, there were 16 teams competing for the prize. On January 23, 2018, X Prize founder and chairman Peter Diamandis stated "After close consultation with our five finalist Google Lunar X Prize teams over the past several months, we have concluded that no team will make a launch attempt to reach the moon by the March 31, 2018, deadline."[25] Google would have awarded $30 million to the first team to land a robotic spacecraft on the Moon and deliver data, images and video from the landing site and from 500 meters away from its landing site.[5]


The company's robotic spacecraft are modular and scalable platforms that can be configured as landers or orbiters.[26] All MoonEx robotic spacecraft use low-toxicity fuels, advanced carbon composites and silicates and a Moon Express PECO rocket engine.[27] The PECO main engine uses RP-1 as a fuel and hydrogen peroxide as an oxidiser. The landing thrusters use hydrogen peroxide as a monopropellant.[28] PECO stands for 'propulsion that is eco-friendly'.[29]

  • MX-1 – a single-engine spacecraft with a mass of 250 kg (fuelled); 30 kg payload capacity.[30]
  • MX-2 – a twin-engine spacecraft with a 30 kg payload capacity.
  • MX-5 – a 5-engine platform configuration that can include MX-1 or MX-2 staged system. The MX-5 has a 150 kg payload capacity.
  • MX-9 – a 9-engine platform configuration, designed for sample return. The MX-9 has over a 500 kg payload capacity.[27]


Moon Express signed a contract with Rocket Lab on 30 September 2015,[31][32] where Rocket Lab will use its Electron rocket system to launch three lunar missions. Two launches are for 2019, with the third to be scheduled at a later date.[31]

The first mission, called the Lunar Scout, is planned for 2019 and will use the MX-1E lander.[33] This is a technology demonstration flight that will include three payloads:[34]

The second mission is the Lunar Outpost, a robotic outpost on the Moon.[34] The third mission, called Harvest Moon, would be a sample-return mission.[34]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Hennigan, W.J. (2011-08-20). "MoonEx aims to scour Moon for rare materials". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-04-10. MoonEx's machines are designed to look for materials that are scarce on Earth but found in everything from a Toyota Prius car battery to guidance systems on cruise missiles. ... The company is among several teams hoping to someday win the Google Lunar X Prize competition, a $30-million race to the Moon in which a privately-funded team must successfully place a robot on the Moon's surface and have it explore at least 1/3 of a mile. It also must transmit high definition video and images back to Earth before 2016. ... should be ready to land on the lunar surface by 2013.
  2. ^ Brown 2011.
  3. ^ Chow 2011.
  4. ^ a b c "Moon Express Announces First Successful Flight Test of Lunar Lander System Developed With NASA Partnership". Moon Express. Retrieved August 16, 2011.
  5. ^ a b Caulfield, Brian. "Naveen Jain: 'Think Of The Moon As Just Another Continent'". Forbes. Retrieved August 16, 2011.
  6. ^ Knafo, Saki (July 22, 2011). "The New Space Biz: Companies Seek Cash In The Cosmos". Huffington Post. Retrieved August 16, 2011.
  7. ^ "Moving the heaven to get some rare earth". Chennai, India: The Hindu. June 2, 2011. Retrieved June 7, 2011.
  8. ^ Dean, James (22 January 2015). "Private moon firm to sign deal for test flights at Cape".
  9. ^
  10. ^ Hennigan, W.J. (2011-04-08). "MoonEx aims to scour Moon for rare materials". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-04-10.
  11. ^ Sutherland, Paul. "Moon Express to fly lunar telescope". Retrieved 19 August 2012.
  12. ^ Lindsey, Clark (2012-12-20). "MoonEx Acquires RCSP of Dynetics". NewSpace Watch. Retrieved 2012-12-21. (Subscription required (help)).
  13. ^ Kohlenberg, Brad (2013-09-05). "Moon Express Announces Dr. Paul Spudis as Chief Scientist and Dr. Jack Burns as Science Advisory Board Chair". Google Lunar XPRIZE Blog. Retrieved 2013-09-16.
  14. ^ "Moon Express Buys Rocket Lab Launches for Lunar Missions -". 1 October 2015.
  15. ^ "Moon Express takes over Cape Canaveral Delta 2 launch site". 12 July 2016.
  16. ^ Pasztor, Andy (June 5, 2016). "U.S. Set to Approve Moon Mission by Commercial Space Venture". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved June 6, 2016.
  17. ^ "Florida Company Gets Approval to Put Robotic Lander on Moon". The New York Times. 4 August 2016.
  18. ^ "Towers at disused Florida launch pad to be toppled Thursday – Spaceflight Now". Retrieved 2018-07-12.
  19. ^ Mohon, Lee (15 May 2015). "NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center's Mighty Eagle Successfully Concludes Test Series".
  20. ^ Messier, Doug (2013-12-05). "Moon Express Unveils 'MX-1' Commercial Lunar Lander". Parabolic Arc. Retrieved 2013-12-07.
  21. ^ "RELEASE 14-126 NASA Selects Partners for U.S. Commercial Lander Capabilities". NASA.GOV website. NASA. April 30, 2014. Retrieved May 3, 2014.
  22. ^ Erin Mahoney. "NASA Extends Agreements to Advance Commercial Lunar Landers". NASA.GOV. Retrieved November 2, 2017.
  23. ^ Herridge, Linda (3 March 2015). "Moon Express Completes Initial Flight Tests at NASA's Kennedy".
  24. ^ "Intelius' Naveen Jain Turns to Moon Mining, Philanthropy". May 9, 2011. Archived from the original on September 28, 2011. Retrieved June 7, 2011.
  25. ^ Ex-Prize: Google's $30 Million Moon Race Ends with No Winner. Mike Wall, Space. 23 January 2018.
  26. ^ Moon Express Unveils Lunar Mission Architecture. Press Release - Source: Moon Express. July 12, 2017.
  27. ^ a b Grush, Loren. "To mine the Moon, private company Moon Express plans to build a fleet of robotic landers". Retrieved 9 August 2017.
  28. ^ Moon Express. "We hydrogen peroxide as oxidizer in our bi-prop PECO main engine, & as a monopropellant for our landing & "hopping" thrusters". Retrieved January 21, 2018.
  29. ^ Moon Express unveils its roadmap for giant leaps to the lunar surface … and back again. Alan Boyle, GeekWire. July 12, 2017.
  30. ^ MX-1: Scout Class. MoonEx. 2017.
  31. ^ a b "Moon Express signs historic launch agreement for private missions to the Moon". Moon Express – Press release. SpaceRef. 1 October 2015. Retrieved 2015-10-05.
  32. ^ "Moon Express Launch Contract to be Verified by Google Lunar XPRIZE". SpaceRef. 4 October 2015. Retrieved 2015-10-05.
  33. ^ Pietrobon, Steven. "New Zealand Launch Record (2009 to present)". Steven Pietrobon's Space Archive. Retrieved 12 March 2018.
  34. ^ a b c "Moon Express unveils its roadmap for giant leaps to the lunar surface … and back again". GeekWire. 2017-07-12. Retrieved 2017-08-09.
  35. ^ Mann, Adam (2013-07-18). "The Private Plan to Put a Telescope on the Moon". Wired. Retrieved 2013-07-21.
  36. ^ 'MoonLIGHT' Shines Bright: Moon Express' $24 Million New Science Customer. Nick Azer. May 21, 2015.

Further reading

  • Calandrelli E, Escher A (16 December 2016). "The top 15 events that happened in space in 2016". TechCrunch. Retrieved 2016-12-16.

External links

  • Moon Express official website
  • Brown, Eryn (December 9, 2011). "Shooting for the Moon — to mine it". L.A. Times. Retrieved January 2, 2012.
  • Chow, Denise (November 14, 2011). "A 'Mine in the Sky': Moon Express Co-Founder's Lunar Ambitions". Retrieved March 16, 2012.
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