Startup Proposes to Land Payload of Scientific Gear on Lunar Surface Some Time Next Year.
The government’s endorsement would eliminate the largest regulatory obstacle to plans by Moon Express, a relatively obscure space startup, to land a roughly 20-pound package of scientific hardware on the Moon sometime next year. It also would provide the biggest federal boost yet for unmanned commercial space exploration and, potentially, the first in an array of for-profit ventures throughout the solar system.
The expected decision, said the people familiar with the details, is expected to set important legal and diplomatic precedents for how Washington will ensure such nongovernmental projects comply with longstanding international space treaties. The principles are likely to apply to future spacecraft whose potential purposes range from mining asteroids to tracking space debris.
Approval of a formal launch license for the second half of 2017 is still months away, and the proposed mission poses huge technical hurdles for California-based Moon Express, including the fact that the rocket it wants to use hasn’t yet flown.
But the project’s proponents have considered federal clearance of the suitcase-size MX-1 lander and its payload as well as approval of a planned two-week operation on the Moon itself to pose the most significant legal challenges to the mission.
After months of lobbying by Moon Express officials and high-level deliberations among various federal agencies led by the White House science office, the people familiar with the matter said, the company appears close to obtaining what it has called “mission approval.” Until recently, Moon Express faced a regulatory Catch-22 because there was no template for getting Washington’s blessing for what it proposed.
Official action coordinated through the Federal Aviation Administration, which regulates U.S. rocket launches and is responsible for traditional payload reviews, could come as soon as the next few weeks, these people said. Read the rest of this entry »
And it was their first attempt — beating the less than 50% success rate of all Mars missions to date. Read all about it here.
What is red, is a planet and is the focus of my orbit? pic.twitter.com/HDRWjOcPus
— ISRO’s Mars Orbiter (@MarsOrbiter) September 24, 2014
— NASA (@NASA) September 24, 2014
Jacob Aron writes: India’s most powerful space rocket blasted off on Sunday in the vehicle’s first successful launch for a decade. Previously feared unreliable, the rocket could one day allow the fledgling space power to send a robot, and even people, to the moon.
Known as the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV), the rocket was first launched in 2001, when it failed to place the satellite it was carrying into the correct orbit. Two successful launches in 2003 and 2004 followed, but then a string of failures left the GSLV as one of the most unreliable rockets in use today. “Some used to call the GSLV the naughty boy of ISRO,” said K. Sivan, the rocket’s project director. “The naughty boy has become obedient.”