Masten XL-1 lunar lander to prep human Moon landings

Masten XL-1 lunar lander to prep human Moon landings

Specifically, NASA has selected Masten Space Systems, to deliver and operate eight payloads as part of the $75.9m award – with nine science and technology instruments.

The deliverables include instruments to assess the composition of the lunar surface, test precision landing technologies, and evaluate the radiation on the Moon. It comes under NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative as part of the US space agency’s Artemis programme.

To the Moon

“Under our Artemis program, we are going to the Moon with all of America,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “Commercial industry is critical to making our vision for lunar exploration a reality.”

“The science and technology we are sending to the lunar surface ahead of our crewed missions will help us understand the lunar environment better than we ever have before. These CLPS deliveries are on the cutting edge of our work to do great science and support human exploration of the Moon. I’m happy to welcome another of our innovative companies to the group that is ready to start taking our payloads to the Moon as soon as possible.”


Nine instruments to be delivered include a small robotic rover – dubbed the MoonRanger – that weighs less than 30 pounds and will demonstrate communications and mapping technologies.

There will also be a a device to measure potentially accessible resources on the Moon’s surface. For example, it will identify gases coming off a lander during touchdown on the lunar surface to help scientists understand what elements are coming from the lunar surface and which ones are introduced by a lander itself.

The full list of instruments comprises: a Lunar Compact Infrared Imaging System (L-CIRiS), a Linear Energy Transfer Spectrometer (LETS), a Heimdall flexible camera system for conducting lunar science on commercial vehicles, a small robotic rover, a Neutron Spectrometer System, a Mass Spectrometer Observing Lunar Operations (MSolo) device, a Near-Infrared Volatile Spectrometer System (NIRVSS) tool, a Laser Retroreflector Array (LRA) and, finally, a Sample Acquisition, Morphology Filtering, and Probing of Lunar Regolith (SAMPLR) robotic arm.

For its part, Masten’s CEO Sean Mahoney said:

“Masten is thrilled to have NASA as our anchor customer on this mission,” said CEO Sean Mahoney. “As we, like the rest of the world, work to keep our employees and families safe in these trying times, we’re glad to see America’s return to the Moon and space commerce moving forward.”

The $75.9 million contract covers end-to-end services for delivery of the instruments, including payload integration, launch from Earth, landing on the Moon’s surface, and operation for at least 12 days.

Masten Space Systems will land these payloads on the Moon with its lander.

Scientific value

“The Moon provides great scientific value, and these payloads will advance what we know and help define and improve the science astronauts can do,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “Our commercial Moon delivery efforts are seeking to demonstrate how frequent and affordable access to the lunar surface benefits both science and exploration.”

Payloads for a fifth lunar delivery are in development, says NASA, and it will soon be initiating a new series of payload acquisitions for targeted science investigations.

Image credit: Masten Space Systems – Masten’s XL-1 lunar lander will deliver science and technology payloads to the Moon’s South Pole in 2022.

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