Space ridesharing service provider Spaceflight Inc. will send customers on a lunar flyby mission next year, as part of its long-term vision to give businesses easy access to lunar orbits and beyond.
The Seattle-based company will deliver the payload using its propellant transfer vehicle, Sherpa Escape, or Sherpa-ES, the latest iteration of Sherpa vehicles the company has been testing for a few years. The Sherpa essentially acts as a last mile space transport, deploying the payload to the orbits customers want after reaching outer space.
Spaceflight’s electric powered Sherpa-LTE flew on the SpaceX Transporter-2 mission in June, while the chemical-powered Sherpa-LTC will launch later this year on Transporter-3. The company has successfully deployed 50 customer spacecraft to date.
The Sherpa-ES will provide payloads to in-orbit refueling company Orbit Fab, which just closed $ 10 million in funding from two major aerospace manufacturers and new company GeoJump. It appears that GeoJump is also looking to get into carpooling; its website presents it as offering “a new route to [geostationary orbit]”for small satellites. The mission will be launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
The carpooling is part of a robotic lunar landing mission undertaken by Intuitive Machines, one of a few companies selected by NASA to be part of its commercial lunar payload services program. Intuitive Machines will send its nearly 2,000 kilogram Nova-C lander to the lunar surface for a 14-day mission. The IM-1 lander will carry approximately 130 kilograms of cargo.
Intuitive Machines also brought in SpaceX for its second lander mission, also in 2022. The company says it will be the first object to land at the moon’s south pole and the first object to be drilled on moon ice.