Firefly Aerospace chooses SpaceX rocket to launch Blue Ghost lunar lander in 2023

Space launch company Firefly Aerospace announced this week that when its Blue Ghost lander launches to the moon in 2023, it will do so on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

“Firefly is delighted to pilot our Blue Ghost spacecraft on the highly reliable Falcon 9, which will provide NASA instruments and technology demonstration payloads that support NASA science objectives and NASA’s Artemis program, “Shea Ferring, senior vice president of Firefly, said in a statement on Thursday (May 20). The Falcon 9 will be able to transport Blue Ghost to the moon without forcing the lander to spend much of the fuel it might need for touchdown, Ferring added.

Firefly hasn’t launched anything yet, although in June the Austin, Texas-based company hopes to start testing its own rocket for small satellite launches: Firefly Alpha. Nonetheless, the company has been active in the design of lunar landers, and it has paid off; in February, NASA awarded Firefly a $ 93.3 million contract to deliver Blue Ghost to the moon.

Related: Firefly Aerospace prepares Alpha rocket for launch in 2021

Blue Ghost is part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program, which contracts with private sector companies to conduct science experiments and various other cargoes on the moon. The first CLPS missions could be launched this year.

SpaceX is no stranger to CLPS either, and even launched a lunar mission – Israeli private lunar lander Beresheet – on the moon aboard a Falcon 9 rocket (The Beresheet lander failed to land, however.). SpaceX has already been asked to launch a few other CLPS landers – such as Intuitive Machines’ Nova-C and Masten’s XL-1 – possibly as early as 2022.

If all goes according to plan, Blue Ghost will land at Mare Crisium, a dark oval that you can see if you look at the upper right edge of the moon’s face. It will carry 10 payloads weighing approximately 330 pounds. (150 kilograms) when it lands. Firefly Aerospace named its Blue Ghost lander after the rare Phausis reticulata firefly).

This payload will help achieve a science medley – by studying things like what makes up the lunar mantle, how radiation affects computer chips in a world without a magnetic field, and how well you can pick up GPS signals.

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Travis Durham

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