Masten Space Systems has selected SpaceX to launch its XL-1 lunar lander carrying nine NASA-sponsored scientific experiments and “several commercial payloads. The mission is expected to touch down around the lunar south pole in 2022.
In an August 26 press release, Masten announced that it had selected SpaceX to launch Masten Mission One (MM1). The mission will center around the Masten XL-1 lunar lander that will carry a suite of NASA-sponsored scientific instruments as part of the agency’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative.
Masten CEO Sean Mahoney explained the company’s selection of SpaceX citing the provider’s “proven launch success” and the two companies’ common vision. Mahoney went so far as to describe the partnership as “a dream team.”
The nine NASA payloads carried aboard the XL-1 lander for MM1 will, however, not be the mission’s only cargo. The company hopes to entice commercial partners to purchase the surplus payload capacity aboard the lander.
Although Masten confirmed that it had selected SpaceX to launch the MM1 mission, it did not specifically state what vehicle it would launch aboard. However, as the XL-1 lander weighs just 2,400 kilograms (5,300 pounds), a Falcon 9 rocket will be more than capable of launching the mission with room to spare.
NASA awarded a CLPS contract to Masten in April this year following the selection of Astrobotic and Intuitive Machines in May 2019. The agency hopes that the CLPS initiative will allow the agency to affordably prepare for human missions to the lunar surface. Additionally, the initiative will seek to test innovative next-generation technology that could enable a sustained presence on the Moon.