Space rideshare service provider Spaceflight Inc. is going to lay off customers on a lunar flyby mission next year, as part of its long-term vision of giving companies easy access to lunar orbits and beyond.
The Seattle-based company will deliver payloads using its propellant transfer vehicle, the Sherpa eScape, or Sherpa-ES, the latest iteration of the Sherpa vehicles that the company has been testing for the past few years. Sherpas essentially act as a last mile space transport, deploying payloads to the customers’ desired orbits after reaching outer space.
Spaceflight’s electric propellant Sherpa-LTE flew on the SpaceX Transporter-2 mission in June, while Sherpa-LTC with chemical propulsion will launch on Transporter-3 later this year. The company has successfully deployed 50 customer spacecraft so far.
Sherpa-ES will deliver payloads for in-orbit refueling company Orbit Fab, which closed $10 million in funding from two major aerospace primes and new company GeoJump. It looks like GeoJump is also looking to get into the ridesharing business; Its website bills it as Proposal “A New Way” [geostationary orbit]”For small satellites. The mission will launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
The rideshare is part of a robotic lunar landing mission being performed by Intuitive Machines, one of a handful of companies selected by NASA to be part of its Commercial Lunar Payload Services program. Intuitive Machines will send its nearly 2,000 kg Nova-C lander to the lunar surface for a 14-day mission. The IM-1 lander will carry around 130 kg of cargo.
The intuitive machines also tapped SpaceX for its second lander mission, slated for 2022. The company says it will be the first object to land on the Moon’s south pole, and the first to drill on lunar ice.