NASA kicks off the next phase of lunar commercialization

As NASA prepares to put humans on the Moon once again by 2024, the organization knows it needs a little help. That’s why NASA is partnering with private, commercial entities to speed up the timeline, decrease costs, and improve innovation.

The Artemis program will put humans on the Moon by 2024, but a lot of preparation needs to happen first. In addition to delivering scientific payloads to the Moon, NASA also needs help testing and developing new technologies that will take us not just to the Moon, but to Mars and beyond.

The Artemis program

As part of the Artemis program, several companies are participating in NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program. 

This initiative invites private businesses to deliver equipment, sensors, and other materials to the Moon’s surface on behalf of NASA. Deliveries start soon as NASA prepares to gather several years’ worth of data on the Moon before humans arrive in 2024. 

But this is no small feat. NASA is charged with delivering heavier payloads to the Moon in difficult locations, such as the lunar South Pole. It would take years and billions of dollars for NASA to deliver the necessary payloads, which is where private industries step in. 

NASA is partnering with commercial entities to deliver payloads more quickly in a cost-effective way. Thanks to these innovative partnerships, NASA’s capabilities are quickly expanding, which means we’re one step closer to solving the mysteries of the Universe. 

Other commercial partnerships

In addition to lunar payload services, NASA is also partnering with commercial entities for research and development. 

Currently, NASA has partnerships with 13 businesses to develop better technology. The goal is to make technological innovations more quickly and in a more cost-effective way by partnering with private external companies. 

NASA started the Collaboration Opportunity in October 2018, signing agreements with private companies to develop technology for deep space exploration. 

NASA agreed to provide hardware, software, and even its facilities at no cost to participating businesses. NASA will work with the companies to improve its capabilities. This will not only benefit the private sector, but also future NASA missions. 

These NASA partnerships are already paying dividends for space travel. Commercial partners are currently working on: 

  1. Improved navigation systems: Advanced Space is creating better navigation technology for the Moon, which should be able to supplement NASA’s Deep Space Network. 
  2. High-quality materials: Aerogel Technologies is creating a flexible aerogel that’s 25% lighter, which is critical to improving rocket performance. Lockheed Martin is building materials from metal powder, which should improve performance in high-temperature environments. 
  3. Space flight technology: Several companies are building light, flexible heat shields that will help NASA deliver payloads more safely. SpaceX is also working on technology to land rockets vertically on the lunar surface. 

These are just some of the incredible innovations coming out of NASA’s third-party partnerships. With just a year under its belt, this program promises to roll out enhanced technology that will significantly improve NASA’s capabilities. 

Looking forward

NASA’s partnerships with private businesses are unheard of, but they’re a great first step to making space exploration happen faster in a cost-effective way. NASA is now able to mature technology more quickly, working faster and better to put humans in space.