On February 10, 2020 NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine presented the State of NASA. In his speech he briefly discussed the the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program. The mention provides a good segue into today’s podcast.
Today on the SpaceQ podcast we have special presentation. On January 8, 2020 Chris Culbert, Manager of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services program was a guest at the weekly Future in Space Operations teleconference.
He provided an update on the program, and towards the end of the presentation spent some time talking about the lessons learned in the first year.
While NASA and the White House will haggle with Congress over the coming months on which programs get funded and how much each will receive, one small segment of the budget has bi-partisan support, CLPS.
The CLPS program is not notional, it’s not 4 or 8 eight years from now, this is a program that will see payloads sent to the Moon next year by two commercial companies. And it’s likely Canadian technology or payloads will be on at least one current mission and future missions.
There are now 14 companies that are part of the CLPS program. They are: Astrobotic Technology; Blue Origin; Ceres Robotics; Deep Space Systems; Draper; Firefly Aerospace; Intuitive Machines; Lockheed Martin Space; Masten Space Systems; Moon Express; Orbit Beyond; Sierra Nevada Corporation; SpaceX; and Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems.
Astrobotic and Intuitive Machines are the first companies to get contracts. Astrobotic is scheduled to launch its lander in June 2021 while Intuitive Machines is scheduled to launch in July 2021. NASA will announce further contracts this year.
I would also point out that Canada has a funded commercial lunar program as well, the Lunar Exploration Accelerator Program (LEAP). While not quite at the same level or maturity as NASA’s program, LEAP is funded at $150 million over five years. The first contracts are expected to be announced this year. I’ll do a full episode on this program when the contracts are announced.