Moon Express on recent expansion: ‘We’re committed to the Space Coast’
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Moon Express Inc., one of the competitors under the $30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE, announced on Tuesday, July 12, that it had entered into an agreement with the U.S. Air Force’s 45th Space Wing to license the historic Space Launch Complexes 17 and 18 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
Moon Express’ founder and CEO Bob Richards made the announcement as part of a keynote address to more than 300 attendees at the National Space Club Florida Committee luncheon.
“We are honored to be residents at Cape Canaveral and look forward to our expanded presence,” Richards said. “The Moon is rising again over the space coast thanks to the unequivocal support of the USAF 45th Space Wing, Space Florida, and the NASA Kennedy Space Center, in helping us create a vibrant home for Moon Express manufacturing, integration and testing of our lunar lander vehicles and spacecraft.”
According to a statement issued by Moon Express, the new site will be used in the development and flight test operations for the company’s lunar lander.
“The welcoming community support we have from the USAF 45th Wing, Space Florida, NASA Kennedy Space Center, and the State of Florida has been unequivocal. We see a new space renaissance underway at the Cape and KSC that heralds a new era of commercial space achievements, building on the amazing local ecosystem and accomplishments of the past,” Richards said.
This new arrangement should see Moon Express’ operations move at the Cape, as the Mountain View, California-based company was utilizing the Cape’s Launch Complex 36. The company entered into the agreement for SLC-36 in 2015. Richards was asked if it would no longer be working out of SLC-36.
“…that is correct, we have moved from LC-36A to LC-17 and 18, allowing a coordinated expansion for both Blue Origin and Moon Express,” Richards told SpaceFlight Insider.
This new arrangement should see an estimated $3.7 million invested into the renovation of SLC’s 17 and 18, with Space Florida, the State of Florida’s aerospace economic development agency contributing an estimated $1.85 million and Moon Express matching that amount.
“We are proud to continue our partnership with Moon Express in the development of Launch Complexes 17 and 18 and a new generation of exploration technologies in Florida,” said Space Florida’s President Frank DiBello. “With joint investments by Moon Express and the State of Florida, these historic launch sites are now beginning a new mission as commercial facilities that will help take the United States back to the surface of the Moon.”
SLC-17 already has an extensive space flight pedigree. The site was the East Coast location where Colorado-based United Launch Alliance sent its Delta II family of rockets aloft from. NASA’s Dawn, GRAIL, Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity, Mars Phoenix Lander and Kepler Space Telescopes were all launched from SLC-17 atop a Delta II.
SLC-18, by comparison, has been silent for more than 50 years. Used during the 1950s and 1960s to launch Viking, Vanguard, Thor, and Scout rockets, the last flight from the pad at 18B took place on June 9, 1965.
“Our expanded presence at Cape Canaveral Launch Complexes 17 & 18 supports our operational growth and long-term commitment to the Florida Space Coast. LC-17 is in good shape and we’ll be investing together with the State of Florida in its refurbishment,” Richards told SpaceFlight Insider.
It is hoped that some 25 to 50 new jobs will be created by this investment in the revitalization of these dormant pads with other indirect positions also opening in the region due to this agreement.
Moon Express has entered into an array of agreements to enable the company’s space exploration efforts. In October of 2015, it entered into an agreement with Rocket Lab USA for the use of three of the NewSpace firm’s ‘Electron’ launch vehicles.
Moon Express also partnered with NASA in 2014 under the space agency’s Lunar CATALYST (Lunar Cargo Transportation and Landing by Soft Touchdown).
The company was founded in 2010 by Richards, Naveen Jain, and Barney Pell with a focus on the utilization of our nearest celestial neighbor’s vast stores of resources.
Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology, Space.com, The Mars Society and Universe Today.