Moon lunar surface from orbitTwo Google Lunar X-Prize teams are merging. Moon Express has announced an agreement with Huntsville-based Dynetics to acquire the Rocket City Space Pioneers team.

The agreement allows Moon Express to leverage the work of RCSP and its partners: Dynetics, Teledyne Brown Engineering, Andrews Aerospace, Draper Laboratory, The University of Alabama in Huntsville, Von Braun Center for Science & Innovation, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, Moog, Huntsville Center for Technology, and Analytical Mechanics Associates.

The agreement also allows for the transition of RCSP team leader Tim Pickens to the role of chief propulsion engineer for Moon Express. Pickens was the lead propulsion designer for Burt Rutan’s SpaceShipOne, which won the $10 million Ansari X-Prize in 2004.

Both Moon Express and RCSP/Dynetics were selected for NASA lunar data-purchase contracts in the fall of 2010. The contracts are potentially worth up to $10 million each.

Moon Express was also selected by NASA for a Innovative Lunar Demonstration Data contract, worth up to $10 million, in 2010. The ILDD program pays companies for access and insight into commercial lunar plans.

Moon Express, based at the NASA Ames Research Park in Silicon Valley, is considered one of the leading contenders to win the $30-million Google Lunar X-Prize. Forbes magazine called Moon Express one of the 15 “Names You Need to Know” in 2011. Leadership is relative, however. None of the Lunar X-Prize teams have been burning up the track and skeptics are beginning to doubt that the Google Lunar X-Prize will be won before the prize money expires. So, this merger must be viewed as a positive sign. Perhaps, with their greater resources, the combined team will start to get some traction.

Written by Astro1 on December 20th, 2012 , Lunar Science Tags:

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    Moon Express commented

    Thanks for this article. Moon Express is delighted to embrace the Spirit of Alabama. With 36 months left in the Google Lunar X PRIZE competition, 2013 is certain to be a watershed year!

    We’ve been a somewhat stealth about our activities to date and hope to open up a little more about our program and technical developments in the coming years so pros & the public can get more excited about our strategy and progress. Our culture is to talk about things we’ve done, not hope to do, and report on our progress as we reach milestones. Being in a competition and dealing with ITAR makes it a little more tricky to be totally open.

    But here’s a metric that we hope is helpful in demonstrating that we not only have traction, but we are in fact “burning up the rails”: Moon Express has over 30 employees and contractors putting in over 300 hours/day of real engineering toward our flight program. We are aggressively hiring and our payroll should be around 50 people by the end of 2013. Those in the space industry know that much of a flight program is no-kidding engineering and reduction of risk effort in design, software and simulation, while real flight hardware has long lead items and doesn’t show up until well into the flight program schedule, often 18-24mths.

    We have millions of dollars of hardware in house, on order and in development, and just this week took delivery of our Flight Computer EM (Engineering Module) from our friends at Broad Reach Engineering that forms the core of our Hardware in the Loop (“HIL”) lander testbed. Also, since our core spacecraft design is built on the same Common Spacecraft Bus as NASA’s LADEE spacecraft, many of our core spacecraft hardware elements that we have in common with our technical sister are already fabricated and in integration and test in NASA clean rooms.

    So, although a common question is: “have you bought a rocket yet?”, the most telling question we suggest should be: “how many experience spacecraft engineers do you have working everyday and what is the status of your lander development?” The rocket question will become the most telling by the end of 2013, but not quite yet….

    Ad luna!

    The ME Team.

    December 22, 2012 at 11:08 am