Moon Express

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Moon Express
HeadquartersCape Canaveral, FL 32920
Key people
Robert D. Richards, Naveen Jain, Barney Pell

Moon Express (MoonEx; vehicle model prefix: MX) is an American privately held early-stage company formed in 2010 by a group of Silicon Valley and space entrepreneurs. It had the goal of winning the $30 million Google Lunar X Prize, and of ultimately mining the Moon for natural resources of economic value.[1][2] The company was not able to make a launch attempt to reach the Moon by March 31, 2018, the deadline for the prize.

Since late 2018, and As of February 2020, Moon Express is focused on supporting NASA under its Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) contract.[3]


In August 2010,[4] Robert D. Richards,[5] Naveen Jain,[6] 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,[7] including elements that are rare on Earth, including niobium, yttrium and dysprosium.[1][8]

Beginning in 2010, Moon Express based itself at the NASA Ames Research Center. 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]

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.[5] 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 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 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.[14] 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.[15] On April 30, 2014 NASA announced that Moon Express was one of the three companies selected for the Lunar CATALYST initiative.[16]

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.[17]

In 2015, the company announced that it would lease part of Florida's Cape Canaveral Launch Complex 36 for 5 years, and relocate operations there.[18] In July 2016, Moon Express stated it would leave LC 36 and be taking over Cape Canaveral Launch Complexes 17 and 18.[19]

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.[20][21]

On October 31, 2017, NASA extended the no-funds Space Act Agreement with Moon Express, for the Lunar CATALYST initiative, for 2 more years.[22]

On July 12, 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.[23] That month, Moon Express was unable to make payroll and laid off nine employees; the employees did not receive back-pay until October 2018.[24]

In October 2018, the company signed several collaboration agreements with the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and a number of Canadian aerospace companies.[25]

On November 29, 2018, Moon Express joined the Commercial Lunar Payload Services program of NASA, becoming eligible to bid on delivering science and technology payloads to the Moon for NASA.[26][27]

[needs update]

Google Lunar XPRIZE[edit]

The company was a competitor in the Google Lunar X Prize.[28] The prize was an award of $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.[6]

Moon Express signed a contract with Rocket Lab on 30 September 2015 for three Electron launches of Moon Express robotic spacecraft in pursuit of the X Prize, starting in 2017.[29][30]

The first mission, called the Lunar Scout, was planned for 2017 (later delayed to July 2020) and would use the MX-1E lander.[31] This was a technology demonstration flight that included three payloads:[32]

The second mission was the Lunar Outpost MX-3,[35] a robotic lander to the lunar south pole that would scout for water ice and other lunar resources.[32] The third mission, called Harvest Moon, would be a sample-return mission.[32]

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."[36]

Following the end of the Google Lunar X Prize, Moon Express shelved the planned lunar lander missions and turned its efforts toward competing in the Commercial Lunar Payload Services program instead.[3]


ManufacturerMoon Express
DesignerMoon Express
Country of originUS
OperatorMoon Express
ApplicationsCommercial lunar transport
Spacecraft typeRobotic lunar lander
Launch mass250 kg (550 lb) [39]
Payload capacity30 kg (66 lb) [39]
Power200 W[39]
Payload to {{{to}}}
StatusIn development
Maiden launch[to be determined]
Related spacecraft
DerivativesMX-2, MX-5, MX-9
Powered by1
PropellantRP-1 / hydrogen peroxide

The company's robotic spacecraft are based on NASA's Modular Common Spacecraft Bus (MCSB),[37][38] which are modular and scalable platforms that can be configured as landers or orbiters.[40]

All MoonEx robotic spacecraft use low-toxicity fuels, advanced carbon composites and silicates and a Moon Express PECO rocket engine.[41] 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.[42] PECO stands for 'propulsion that is eco-friendly'.[43] The company has the "MX lander family":[35]

  • MX-1 – a single-engine spacecraft with a mass of 250 kg (fuelled); 30 kg payload capacity.[39]
  • 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 a payload capacity of about 500 kg.[41]

See also[edit]


  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. ^ a b
  4. ^ Chow 2011.
  5. ^ a b "Moon Express Announces First Successful Flight Test of Lunar Lander System Developed With NASA Partnership". Moon Express. Retrieved August 16, 2011.
  6. ^ a b Caulfield, Brian. "Naveen Jain: 'Think Of The Moon As Just Another Continent'". Forbes. Retrieved August 16, 2011.
  7. ^ Knafo, Saki (July 22, 2011). "The New Space Biz: Companies Seek Cash In The Cosmos". Huffington Post. Retrieved August 16, 2011.
  8. ^ "Moving the heaven to get some rare earth". The Hindu. Chennai, India. June 2, 2011. Archived from the original on June 7, 2011. Retrieved June 7, 2011.
  9. ^ "NASA - NASA Awards Contracts for Innovative Lunar Demonstrations Data".
  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". Archived from the original on 14 July 2018. Retrieved 19 August 2012.
  12. ^ Lindsey, Clark (2012-12-20). "MoonEx Acquires RCSP of Dynetics". NewSpace Watch. Retrieved 2012-12-21.
  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. Archived from the original on 2013-09-29. Retrieved 2013-09-16.
  14. ^ Mohon, Lee (15 May 2015). "NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center's Mighty Eagle Successfully Concludes Test Series".
  15. ^ Messier, Doug (2013-12-05). "Moon Express Unveils 'MX-1' Commercial Lunar Lander". Parabolic Arc. Retrieved 2013-12-07.
  16. ^ "RELEASE 14-126 NASA Selects Partners for U.S. Commercial Lander Capabilities". NASA.GOV website. NASA. April 30, 2014. Retrieved May 3, 2014.
  17. ^ Herridge, Linda (3 March 2015). "Moon Express Completes Initial Flight Tests at NASA's Kennedy".
  18. ^ Dean, James (22 January 2015). "Private moon firm to sign deal for test flights at Cape".
  19. ^ Foust, Jeff (12 July 2016). "Moon Express takes over Cape Canaveral Delta 2 launch site". Spacenews.
  20. ^ Pasztor, Andy (June 5, 2016). "U.S. Set to Approve Moon Mission by Commercial Space Venture". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved June 6, 2016.
  21. ^ "Florida Company Gets Approval to Put Robotic Lander on Moon". The New York Times. 4 August 2016.
  22. ^ Erin Mahoney (31 October 2017). "NASA Extends Agreements to Advance Commercial Lunar Landers". NASA.GOV. Retrieved November 2, 2017.
  23. ^ "Towers at disused Florida launch pad to be toppled Thursday – Spaceflight Now". Retrieved 2018-07-12.
  24. ^ "Layoffs and stalled projects plagued space start-up Moon Express. Then NASA stepped in".
  26. ^ "NASA Announces New Partnerships for Commercial Lunar Payload Delivery Services". NASA. 29 November 2018. Retrieved November 29, 2018.
  27. ^ Cape Canaveral's Moon Express among companies selected for NASA lunar program. Emilee Speck, Click Orlando. 29 November 2018.
  28. ^ "Intelius' Naveen Jain Turns to Moon Mining, Philanthropy". May 9, 2011. Archived from the original on September 28, 2011. Retrieved June 7, 2011.
  29. ^ "Moon Express signs historic launch agreement for private missions to the Moon". Moon Express – Press release. SpaceRef. 1 October 2015. Retrieved 2015-10-05.
  30. ^ "Moon Express Launch Contract to be Verified by Google Lunar XPRIZE". SpaceRef. 4 October 2015. Archived from the original on 2015-10-05. Retrieved 2015-10-05.
  31. ^ Foust, Jeff (1 October 2018). "Moon Express raises $12.5 million". SpaceNews. Retrieved 6 October 2019.
  32. ^ 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.
  33. ^ Mann, Adam (2013-07-18). "The Private Plan to Put a Telescope on the Moon". Wired. Retrieved 2013-07-21.
  34. ^ 'MoonLIGHT' Shines Bright: Moon Express' $24 Million New Science Customer Archived 2018-06-27 at the Wayback Machine. Nick Azer. May 21, 2015.
  35. ^ a b Speaker Interview: Dr. Alain Berinstain, Vice President of Global Development, Moon Express Archived 2018-12-20 at the Wayback Machine. Space Tech Expo. March 2018.
  36. ^ Ex-Prize: Google's $30 Million Moon Race Ends with No Winner. Mike Wall, Space. 23 January 2018.
  37. ^ a b "Moon Express Technology". Google Lunar X-Prize. November 2010. Archived from the original on 2013-03-27.
  38. ^ a b "The New Moon: Water, Exploration, and Future Habitation". By Arlin Crotts. Cambridge University Press, Sep 22, 2014. page 147. ISBN 9780521762243
  39. ^ a b c d e "MX-1 Scout Class Explorer". Moon Express. Archived from the original on 27 October 2019. Retrieved 3 August 2019.
  40. ^ Moon Express Unveils Lunar Mission Architecture Archived 2018-03-16 at the Wayback Machine. Press Release - Source: Moon Express. July 12, 2017.
  41. ^ a b Grush, Loren (12 July 2017). "To mine the Moon, private company Moon Express plans to build a fleet of robotic landers". Retrieved 9 August 2017.
  42. ^ 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.
  43. ^ Moon Express unveils its roadmap for giant leaps to the lunar surface … and back again. Alan Boyle, GeekWire. July 12, 2017.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]