Cedar Park company gets $93M from NASA for 2023 moon mission

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CEDAR PARK, Texas (KXAN) — A Cedar Park-based company has been awarded millions of dollars to prepare for sending humans back to the moon again.

Firefly Aerospace received $93.3 million from NASA to design and create a landing device called the ‘Blue Ghost Lander’ which will be launched during a 2023 moon mission.

“America has not been back to the moon since Apollo. There’s been this push to get boots back on the ground by 2024, which is very soon,” said Firefly Aerospace Chief Engineer William Coogan.

Blue Ghost Lander simulation. Courtesy: Firefly

It’s been more than 45 years since American astronauts collected rocks, took photos, performed experiments and planted flags on the moon. Coogan is looking forward to seeing something like Apollo 17 again.

“I can see the spot, and I know I’m going to land something right there with out team,” said Coogan.

Coogan’s team at Firefly is preparing the ‘Blue Ghost Lander’ to hold 10 of what NASA calls ‘payloads’ on it.

“Scientists come up with an experiment they want to do. They might have a small package, and they attach it to a lander,” said Coogan.

Those 10 experiments are expected to operate for a complete lunar day, which turns out to be 14 earth days.

Each payload is testing for different things like rock and soil properties or geophysical characteristics on the moon. One will try to mimic GPS on Earth.

“On the moon, we don’t have that. We have to land in an area smaller than a football field without anything other than recognizing that crater over there,” said Coogan.

The goal is to launch the lander in less than three years.

The delivery is planned for Mare Crisium: a 300 mile-wide basin on the Moon’s near side.

The $93.3 million award is part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative, in which NASA is securing the service of commercial partners to quickly land science and technology payloads on the lunar surface.

The initiative is a key part of NASA’s Artemis program. Firefly Aerospace will be responsible for end-to-end delivery services, including payload integration, launch from Earth, landing on the Moon and mission operations.

This is the sixth award for lunar surface delivery under the CLPS initiative.

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