Photo above: Beresheet Moon Lander at IAI’s integration facility in Israel
Firefly Aerospace Inc. (Firefly) announced that it has signed an Intellectual Property and Engineering Support Agreement with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) for technology based on its Beresheet Lunar Lander. Firefly Aerospace is one of the nine companies selected by NASA to participate in the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program to deliver science payloads to the surface of the Moon.
Firefly CEO Dr. Tom Markusic,said that the agreement with IAI will allow Firefly “to create a U.S.-built version of IAI’s historic lunar lander. Having access to flight proven lunar lander technology and the expertise of IAI engineers makes Firefly well placed to gain a foothold in the cislunar market.” Shea Ferring, Firefly Vice President of Mission Assurance, added that the cooperation agreement provide the only NASA CLPS program flight-proven lander design.
The development of the spacecraft Beresheet (“Genesis” in Hebrew) by SpaceIL and IAI started in 2015 and lasted until 2018. The spacecraft, which weighs only 600 kilograms, is considered the smallest to land on the moon. The height of “Beresheet” is 1.5 meters, it is about two meters wide and it carries fuel which is approximately 75 percent of its weight. In the end it did not reach the moon. On April 4, 2019 it had entered a lunar orbit, but during the landing procedure on April 11, the vehicle crashed on the lunar surface.
The cooperation agreement between Firefly Aerospace and IAI aimed to answer the needs of NASA in its CLPS program. As part of its plan to return astronauts to the Moon, NASA is currently working with nine American companies (including Firefly) on delivery services to the lunar surface through CLPS contracts. They will bid on delivering science and technology payloads for NASA, including payload integration and operations, launching from Earth and landing on the surface of the Moon. CLPS budgets valued of $2.6 billion during the next 10 years.