Rocket Lab to target moon in new contract
By Paul McBeth
Oct. 2 (BusinessDesk) - Rocket Lab, which develops small launch rockets providing a cheaper alternative to send small payloads into space, has signed a contract with San Francisco-based Moon Express to send three robotic spacecraft to the moon, starting in 2017.
The deal, signed on Sept. 30, will use Rocket Lab's Electron system to launch three missions to the moon, where Moon Express's MX-1 craft would become the first private company landing a spacecraft on the moon. Two launches are planned for 2017, with a third scheduled for a later date. Moon Express has the option of launching in either the US or Rocket Lab's New Zealand range.
"Rocket Lab is pleased to begin working with Moon Express to launch its spacecraft and to provide support to such an ambitious mission," Rocket Lab chief executive Peter Beck said. "The new contract with Moon Express shows the broad market demand for Rocket Lab's affordable, high-frequency Electron launch vehicle."
Moon Express wants to win a US$30 million prize from Google by landing a privately funded spacecraft on the moon, travelling 500 metres, and transmitting back high-definition video and images to Earth. It was awarded US$1 million from Google earlier this year after flight testing a prototype of its lander.
Rocket Lab is backed by Silicon Valley investor Khosla Ventures, Stephen Tindall's K1W1 fund, Silicon Valley venture capitalist Bessemer Venture Partners, and global defence group Lockheed Martin. In July, it signed a contract with the US's National Aeronautics and Space Administration letting it use NASA's resources.