Firefly Aerospace has selected SpaceX to launch its Blue Ghost lunar lander on a Falcon 9 rocket in 2023. Blue Ghost will carry 10 payloads for NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program.
The lunar lander will be capable of delivering more than 150 kilograms of payload to the lunar surface as part of CLPS’ 19D set of tasks. It will land in Mare Crisium in the Moon’s Crisium basin (seen in below video). Firefly plans to operate instruments on Blue Ghost during lunar transit, while still in lunar orbit, and for as many as 14 days on the lunar surface.
Firefly Aerospace bills itself as one of the leading providers of economical and dependable launch vehicles, spacecraft, and in-space services. It is currently developing a series of launch and in-flight vehicles that are designed to be cost-effective. It appears to be planning for the Space Utility Vehicle and Blue Ghost Lunar Lander to be among its “trademark” vehicles. The company is based in Cedar Park, Texas.
Firefly CEO Tom Markusic said, “Firefly is excited to leverage the performance and reliability of Falcon 9 to propel Blue Ghost on the first phase of its journey to the Moon.”
The Blue Ghost lunar lander that is slated to land in Mare Crisium is part of the runup to the Artemis Program, which will land crews on the Moon. It contains a scientific package that will assist with preparations for crewed operations on the lunar surface.
Shea Ferring, Firefly Senior Vice President of Spacecraft, said, “Firefly is excited to fly our Blue Ghost spacecraft on the highly reliable Falcon 9, which will deliver NASA instruments and technology demonstration payloads that support NASA science goals and NASA’s Artemis program. The high performance of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launch vehicle permits a lunar transit using minimal Blue Ghost propulsion resources, thereby allowing the lander to deliver more than 150 kg of payload to the lunar surface.”
SpaceX is already heavily involved as a contractor or subcontractor providing launch services for NASA’s commercial space programs, including CLPS and the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program, which aimed to develop spacecraft capable of delivering payloads to the International Space Station.
The Cargo Dragon was a result of COTS-related development and continues to deliver supplies to the International Space Station under contract with NASA. It has also successfully conducted the crewed missions Demo-2 and Crew-1, which successfully delivered astronauts to the International Space Station and returned them in a classic “splashdown” in the Gulf of Mexico. The Crew-2 Crew Dragon is still docked to the International Space Station.
It also recently received contracts to launch a lunar lander for the aerospace company Astrobotic, which will carry NASA’s VIPER rover to the Moon, and Nova-C lunar landers for Intuitive Machines. It will also launch the first components of the Lunar Gateway. SpaceX has been awarded a contract to develop the lunar lander for the Artemis Program, but that is currently on hold due to challenges from competitors Blue Origin and Dynetics.