The initial spacecraft, known as MX-1E, is slated to fly before the end of the year aboard a Rocket Lab Electron booster, which launches from New Zealand. . The MX-1E can deliver up to 66 lbs. (30 kilograms) to the lunar surface. Moon Express has raised more than $45 million from private investors to build its first spacecraft and buy launch services.
Moon Express project
The company is one of five teams left in the Google Lunar X Prize (GLXP) competition. Google is offering a top prize of $20 million for the first privately funded team to land a spacecraft on the moon. Moon Express will fly science equipment and payloads for at least three paying customers, including Houston-based Celestis, which offers memorial spaceflights for cremated remains. But the company has the goal to set up a permanent robot-operated base on the moon’s south pole to prospect for water and other materials, intending to return lunar samples to Earth for research and commercial sale by 2020. Moon Express has a deal with Rocket Lab which covers up to five launches, and the company wants at least two more to occur in the next few years.