Moon Express Continues Lander Flight Tests Under NASA Lunar CATALYST Program

NASA congratulates Moon Express on successful commercial lunar lander test flights at Kennedy Space Center

Moon Express, Inc. (MoonEx) has announced that it will continue flight tests at Kennedy Space Center using the newest version of its lunar lander test vehicle later this month. The “MTV-1A” vehicle is an advanced version of the MTV-1X lander test vehicle that successfully completed a series of initial flights in December, earning the company a $1M award from the Google Lunar XPRIZE. The MTV-1A vehicle utilizes flight software and a number of flight hardware components that will further demonstrate core features of the vehicle’s innovative propulsion and avionics systems, paving the way for the company’s goal of developing the world’s first private spacecraft capable of landing on the Moon. The tests are being conducted at the Kennedy Space Center “Moonscape” test range located at the north end of the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF).

On December 15th, 2014, NASA announced Moon Express as the first commercial user of Kennedy’s SLF for vehicle flight-testing, citing it as a cornerstone moment in the transformation of the center to becoming a multi-user spaceport. NASA posted an update on January 27th, congratulating Moon Express for the successful initial flight tests.

The Moon Express team shared facilities and coordinated range operations with the NASA Morpheus lander test vehicle, built and operated by the NASA Johnson Space Center, which also had a successful flight test series. Moon Express is one of NASA’s three private sector partners competitively selected under its Lunar CATALYST program designed to spur commercial cargo transportation capabilities to the surface of the Moon.

“We congratulate Moon Express on the successful flight tests of their innovative lunar lander test vehicle,” said Jason Adam, NASA’s Moon Express Partner Manager under Lunar CATALYST. “Moon Express is the first private company to build and operate a lander test vehicle at the Kennedy Space Center, and we look forward to working with them as they develop new U.S. capabilities to land on the Moon.”

Through an increasingly complex series of tests following vehicle integration, the Moon Express “MTV-1X” proved out its fundamental guidance, navigation, and control systems. Moon Express has published a highlights video of the initial flight test campaign. The successor MTV-1A lunar lander vehicle is currently being readied by Moon Express engineers at the Moon Express SLF hangar for the next series of flight tests.

“NASA has been a remarkably helpful and proactive partner supporting our goals,” said Bob Richards, Moon Express co-founder and CEO. “The NASA Lunar CATALYST team is outstanding and our direct collaborations with Ames Research Center, Kennedy Space Center & Marshall Space Flight Center are providing us additional access to key resources that will help us reach the Moon.”

Later this year Moon Express will expand its lunar lander development and test flight operations to Cape Canaveral’s Space Launch Complex 36 through an agreement with Space Florida, announced earlier this year. The company seeks to become the first private company to reach the Moon with an inaugural mission in late 2016. The company’s first MX-1 lunar mission will carry a number of scientific instruments and other payloads to the Moon, attempt to win the $30M Google Lunar XPRIZE, and be followed by an ongoing series of robotic missions supporting commercial and government customers and in search of valuable resources.