About Lunar CATALYST

Lunar Cargo Transportation and Landing by Soft Touchdown (Lunar CATALYST)

Building on the progress of NASA's partnerships with the U.S. commercial space industry to develop new spacecraft and rockets capable of delivering cargo -- and soon, astronauts -- to low Earth orbit, the agency recognizes the U.S. industry's interest in reaching and exploring the moon, and has competitively selected partners to spur commercial cargo transportation capabilities to the surface of the moon.

Commercial robotic lunar lander capabilities could address emerging demand by private customers who wish to conduct activities on the moon and could also enable new science and exploration missions of interest to the larger scientific and academic communities.

NASA's Lunar Cargo Transportation and Landing by Soft Touchdown (Lunar CATALYST) initiative is establishing multiple no-funds-exchanged Space Act Agreement (SAA) partnerships with U.S. private sector entities. The purpose of these SAAs is to encourage the development of robotic lunar landers that can be integrated with U.S. commercial launch capabilities to deliver payloads to the lunar surface.

NASA Partners With Commercial Companies For Lunar Lander Capabilities

NASA will work with three companies to help them advance robotic lunar lander capabilities that could deliver payloads to the surface of the moon. The no funds-exchanged partnership agreements NASA will negotiate with the companies are another step in the agency's effort to spur growth in the commercial space sector.

The companies, Astrobotic Technologies of Pittsburgh, Pa., Masten Space Systems Inc. of Mojave, Calif. and Moon Express Inc., of Moffett Field, Calif., will not only develop capabilities that could lead to a commercial robotic spacecraft landing on the moon but also potentially enable new science and exploration missions of interest to NASA and to broader scientific and academic communities.

"NASA is making advances to push the boundaries of human exploration farther into the solar system, including to an asteroid and Mars, and continues to spur development in the commercial space sector," said Jason Crusan, director of the Advanced Exploration System division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "Robotic missions to the moon have revealed the existence of local resources including oxygen and water that may be highly valuable for exploration of the solar system. The potential to use the lunar surface in partnership with our international and commercial partners may allow these resources to be characterized and used to enable future exploration and pioneering."

NASA announced the selection of the companies it will be working with on April 30. The agency will negotiate Space Act Agreements with the companies as part of its Lunar Cargo Transportation and Landing by Soft Touchdown (Lunar CATALYST) initiative. There won't be an exchange of funds between NASA and the companies, but the agency may contribute technical expertise of NASA staff, provide access to agency center test facilities, and loan equipment or software for lander development and testing for three year agreements.

Commercial lunar transportation capabilities could support science and exploration objectives, such as sample returns, geophysical network deployment, resource prospecting, and technology demonstrations.

The Advanced Exploration Systems Division in NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate manages Lunar CATALYST. Advanced Exploration Systems pioneers new approaches for rapidly developing prototype systems, demonstrating key capabilities and validating operational concepts for future human missions beyond Earth orbit.

As NASA works with U.S. industry to develop the next generation of U.S. spaceflight services, the agency also is developing the Orion spacecraft and the Space Launch System (SLS), a crew capsule and heavy-lift rocket to provide an entirely new capability for human exploration. Designed to be flexible for launching spacecraft for crew and cargo missions, SLS and Orion will expand human presence beyond low-Earth orbit and enable new missions of exploration across the solar system, including to a near-Earth asteroid and Mars.

CATALYST in the News

Screenshot of Astrobotic's Griffin Lander: Lunar Flight SimulationAstrobotic Develops Flight Software and Mission Simulation
07.07.2015 - Astrobotic Technology has developed a preliminary version of its Griffin lander’s precision guidance software and validated its performance with mission simulations (trajectory animation shown here).

Moon Express Completes Initial Flight Tests
01.27.2015 - Moon Express successfully conducted its lander test vehicle hot fires and initial tethered flight tests at the Shuttle Landing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center.

An artist illustration of the Moon Express MX-1 lunar lander on the surface of the moon.Moon Express Testing Lunar Lander at Kennedy Space Center
12.15.2014 - Moon Express will base its operations at Kennedy, and use facilities and the ALHAT field at the Shuttle Landing Facility, to perform its initial lander test development.

Commercial Lander Concepts

Astrobotic Technology’s Griffin lander
Astrobotic Technology’s Griffin lander.
Credit: Astrobotic Technology, Inc. The Masten XEUS Lander
Masten's XEUS lander.
Credit: NASA/Masten Space Systems, Inc. Moon Express MX-1 Lander
Moon Express's MX-1 Lander.
Credit: Moon Express, Inc.
Page Last Updated: July 7th, 2015
Page Editor: Erin Mahoney