NASA has just issued a new request for its private commercial space company partners to make deliveries of experimental payloads to the Moon sometime in 2022.
The payloads are part of NASA's efforts to pave the way for its planned 2024 Artemis missions, which will see humans return to the Moon.
NASA started its Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program largely in order to have a selection of specialized lunar lander services that would be able to handle the delivery of special payloads to the Moon.
Amongst the 14 companies on the list are SpaceX, Blue Origin, Lockheed Martin, Astrobotic, and Intuitive Machines. All of these companies are eligible to bid on contracts created by NASA to take specific cargo to the Moon.
The payloads include a Lunar Environment Heliospheric X-ray Imager (LEXI), which NASA says will "capture images of the interaction of Earth's magnetosphere with the flow of charged particles from the Sun, called the solar wind," and an Electrodynamic Dust Shield (EDS), which is "a non-uniform electric field using varying high voltage on multiple electrodes" that could be used to protect astronauts and their equipment from the problem of lunar dust.
Another cool piece of equipment going up to the Moon is the Reconfigurable, Radiation Tolerant Computer System, which is suitably known by the shorthand RadPC. This will be a test for space electronics that need to work in environments of increased radiation from the Sun due to a lack of atmosphere.
A full list of the payloads can be seen here on NASA's press release for the announcement.
NASA has so far contracted two batches of payloads via the CLPS program, which will make up four planned total launches already under contract.
These include Astrobotic’s Peregrine Mission One mission set for June 2021, Intuitive Machines' IM-1 set for October 2021, Masten’s Mission One for December 2022, and Astrobotic’s VIPER mission tentatively set for sometime in 2023.
Following NASA's new announcement, private partners from the CLPS list will now be able to submit bids to carry payloads from the company's list to the lunar surface by 2022. NASA expects to pick the winning bid by the end of this year.