A new payload has been added to the upcoming Firefly mission on the far side of the Moon, which will explore the lunar surface to determine if it can support future infrastructure.
Australia’s Fleet Space Technologies is launching SPIDER (Seismic Payload for Interplanetary Discovery, Exploration, and Research) on board Firefly’s Blue Ghost lunar lander, which is scheduled to go up to the far side of the moon in 2026, the company said. announced on Wednesday. SPIDER will carry payloads for NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA).
SPIDER is designed to capture seismic data from the lunar surface for up to 14 days. Using this data, scientists will be able to learn more about the geological structure of the Moon’s subsurface, and the presence of water ice below, which may support future infrastructure as part of future Earth satellite missions.
“Any infrastructure built on other worlds will depend on a deep understanding of the subsurface (on-site) geology—and we are honored to partner with the international community to help unlock critical information to support human life beyond Earth,” Matt Pearson, Co. -Founder and Chief Exploration Officer at Fleet Space Technologies, in a statement.
The Blue Ghost lander will provide power and communications for SPIDER to the lunar surface.
SPIDER is part of the Australian Space Agency’s Moon to Mars program, which complements NASA’s efforts to use the Moon as a gateway to Mars. “The Firefly team welcomes Fleet Space to our side moon mission that will serve as a critical building block for the future of humans and robotics,” said Bill Weber, CEO of Firefly Aerospace, in a statement.
Texas-based Firefly Aerospace aims to provide private and public customers access to space, delivering payloads to the surface of the Moon. Company reached orbit for the first time in October 2022 on its Alpha rocket, but ended up delivering its payload to a lower orbit than intended. In September of this year, Firefly successfully delivered a Millennium Space Systems satellite into low Earth orbit as part of the US Space Force’s rapid response to Victus Nox; the company reached the important goal of this mission by completing all the programs related to the launch in less than 24 hours.
Related article: Firefly Aerospace Sets New Launch Speed Record for US Space Force Mission
Despite being a newcomer to the space industry, the company has already received two NASA contracts. In 2021, NASA is selected Firefly will deliver a series of 10 science experiments to the far side of the Moon as part of a $93.3 million contract. The first mission, Blue Ghost 1, is scheduled for launch in 2024, carrying two additional commercial payloads on board. At the beginning of this year, NASA took Firefly on its second mission for a $112 million contract to deliver multi-month payloads as part of the space agency’s Commercial Lunar Payload Initiative. Blue Ghost 2 will also carry ESA’s Pathfinder satellite into lunar orbit, where it will serve as a communication link for other spacecraft on or near the Moon.
Firefly is not the only company working on developing commercial deliveries to the lunar surface as part of the growing space economy. Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic has been hard at work developing its own Peregrine lunar landerwhich was scheduled to launch in late 2022 but had delays related to its launch vehicle, the United Launch Alliance’s. Vulcan Centaur rocket; Peregrine is now scheduled to launch on Christmas Eve. Meanwhile, Intuitive Machines are preparing themselves launched its Nova-C lander in January 2024, which will carry five NASA payloads to the southern region of the Moon.
These companies are racing to be the first private business to land on the Moon. Japan’s ispace failed in its attempt in April when its companion Hakuto-R calculated its distance to the lunar surface. In 2019, The Israeli resident of Bersheet met the same fate in its quest to become the first independent inhabitant to reach the lunar surface.
Private lunar missions are set to provide more access to the surface of the Moon at a higher rate of travel to Earth’s satellites at a cheaper price, regardless of who touches down on the lunar surface first.
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