While Israel’s Beresheet lander never made it to the moon, looks like some of its tech now has a second chance.
Firefly Aerospace signed an intellectual property and engineering support agreement to use technology based on Beresheet. The U.S. company is building a Genesis Lander in fulfillment of NASA’s new push to land on the moon, which includes a series of planned robotic and human missions in the 2020s. (The most advertised one is the Trump administration’s mandate to land a human on the moon by 2024).
“Having access to flight-proven lunar lander technology, and the expertise of IAI [Israel Aerospace Industries] engineers, makes Firefly well-placed to gain a foothold in the cislunar market,” said Firefly CEO Tom Markusic in a statement. The cislunar market refers to the general area around the moon, which in the coming years could include a NASA space station called Gateway and a network of public and private missions doing exploration of the moon from orbit and from the surface.
Firefly is one of nine U.S. companies selected for the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program. This renders each firm eligible to send payloads to the lunar surface, on a competitive basis. Each lander would hold a suite of scientific experiments and other equipment. Firefly’s design will borrow from the Beresheet lander, which launched safely to space aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in February, but crashed on the moon during a soft landing attempt on April 11.
While Firefly is busy working on its lunar missions, in the near future it does plan to offer missions in Earth orbit as well. Its first Alpha rocket flight in December will include a large commercial payload and several rideshare opportunities for students and small companies under Firefly’s Dedicated Research and Education Accelerator Mission (DREAM) program.
The company’s proprietary technology is carbon fiber composites, which are supposed to reduce rocket leaks when storing supercooled liquid oxygen. Firefly’s 2019 milestones include a $52 million expansion (including a launch site) at Cape Canaveral Spaceport, and passing a key engine test in April with no major issues.