NASA has selected American rocket company Firefly Aerospace to put a lander on the far side of the moon in 2026 in a contract worth under a nearly $112 million contract, reports Reuters.
“The commercial lander will deliver two agency payloads, as well as communication and data relay satellite for lunar orbit, which is an ESA (European Space Agency) collaboration with NASA,” the U.S. space agency said.
The contract is part of the Artemis program initiative to deploy private lunar landers to study the surface of the moon before landing humans on it in the next few years.
Last year, NASA awarded a similar $73 million contract to spacecraft software firm Draper to deliver scientific and technical cargo to the far side of the moon in 2025.
Firefly, which first reached orbit in October, has endured years of hardship, including a 2017 rescue from bankruptcy by Ukrainian entrepreneur Maks Polyakov’s Noosphere Ventures, who was later forced to sell his share in the company.
In 2021, NASA awarded Cedar Park, Texas-based Firefly $93.3 million to conduct 10 scientific studies and technology demonstrations on the moon in 2023.