NASA could purchase rides on small commercial lander platforms beginning in late 2018 to initially deliver 22 pounds of scientific payloads to the Moon starting 2021, SpaceNews reported Thursday.
The space agency looks to procure small instruments for the lunar flights, as well as lunar landers with a payload capacity of up to 2,204 pounds.
NASA issued a draft request for proposals in April for a capsule that could deliver scientific assets to the lunar surface under a 10-year, multiple-award indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract.
James Reuter, deputy associate administrator for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, said at the Space Tech Expo that the organization aims to initially launch payloads to the Moon using a mid-size lander.
“We are thinking that if we go straight to a human-size lander now and impose the requirements that we typically impose on human-rated vehicles, we would probably develop something to unwieldy,” Reuter added.
He estimated that a lander capable of bringing humans to the Moon would have to weigh somewhere between 5,000 to 6,000 kilograms.
The NASA official noted that the space agency will potentially conduct its own research on landers in the future.