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Moon Express' MTV-1X test vehicle performed a tethered flight test at the Shuttle Landing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (Image Credit: Moon Express Inc.)

Moon Express: Commercial Lunar Lander Successfully Completes Initial Test Flights

The Moon Express “MTV-1X” has successfully conducted its lander test vehicle hot fires and initial flight tests at the Shuttle Landing Facility at Kennedy Space Center during November and December 2014, with the support of NASA’s Lunar Cargo Transportation and Landing by Soft Touchdown (CATALYST) initiative.

Moon Express was the only team to flight test a prototype of their lander. Naveen Jain, Moon Express co-founder and executive chairman, said, “Our engineering team took on the hardest challenge possible and became the first privately funded company to build and flight test a lunar lander architecture designed to land on the Moon.”

Moon Express first demonstrated its guidance, navigation, and control (GNC) systems in 2013 aboard the NASA Mighty Eagle prototype lander, before testing it on its own vehicle. The company built its own vehicle in 2014. A highlights video was published by Moon Express following the flight tests.

Meanwhile, Moon Express was awarded $1M by Google Lunar XPRIZE for its recent lander test flights at a private ceremony held at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco.

The Moon Express team shared facilities and coordinated range operations with the NASA Morpheus lander test vehicle, which also had a successful flight test series.

“NASA has been a remarkably helpful and proactive partner to help us achieve our goals,” said Moon Express co-founder and CEO, Bob Richards.

He said, “The Lunar CATALYST team supporting our partnership is outstanding and our direct Space Act Agreement relationships with Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, and Kennedy are providing us access to additional key support and resources to help get us to the moon.”

He added that after seven years of competition it’s great to see the Google Lunar XPRIZE reward technical progress on a challenge that has only been accomplished to date by superpowers and declared, “We look forward to announcing our rocket launch to the Moon.”

“We congratulate Moon Express on the successful flight tests of their innovative lunar lander test vehicle,” said Jason Adam, NASA’s Moon Express partner manager under Lunar CATALYST.

Moon Express is one of NASA’s three private sector partners competitively selected to spur commercial cargo transportation capabilities to the surface of the moon.


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