Moon Express, Inc. (MoonEx) announced today that it has reached an agreement with the U.S. Air Force 45th Wing to license the historic Space Launch Complexes 17 and 18 at Cape Canaveral for its lunar lander development and flight test operations. The announcement was made by company founder & CEO Bob Richards in a keynote address to over 300 attendees at the National Space Club Florida Committee luncheon today.
The new arrangement for Launch Complexes 17 and 18 under the USAF 45th Wing will allow for Moon Express growth and expansion of its business and technical operations. Moon Express previously occupied Cape Canaveral Launch Complex 36A under an agreement established with Space Florida in January 2015.
“We are honored to be residents at Cape Canaveral and look forward to our expanded presence,” remarked Moon Express co-founder and CEO, Bob Richards. “The Moon is rising again over the space coast thanks to the unequivocal support of the USAF 45th Space Wing, Space Florida, and the NASA Kennedy Space Center, in helping us create a vibrant home for Moon Express manufacturing, integration and testing of our lunar lander vehicles and spacecraft.”
The State of Florida has approved contributing up to $1.85 million toward improving the facilities on a matching funds basis to Moon Express investments. Launch Complex 17 is the former home of Delta II rockets. Among the major NASA missions launched from the complex were the Explorer and Pioneer space probes, and the Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity. Launch Complex 18 was the site of the first attempts by the U.S. to launch a satellite into orbit.
Moon Express and State of Florida investments into the refurbishment of Launch Complex 17 will revitalize the range, which has been dormant since the last launch in September 2011 of the GRAIL probes to the Moon, as well as enable the immediate creation of 25-50 new jobs and potentially hundreds of direct and indirect new jobs over the next 5 years.
Space Florida, the State of Florida’s aerospace economic development agency, has been instrumental in attracting Moon Express to the Florida space coast and facilitating its Cape Canaveral presence and expansion. “We are proud to continue our partnership with Moon Express in the development of Launch Complexes 17 and 18 and a new generation of exploration technologies in Florida,” said Space Florida President Frank DiBello. “With joint investments by Moon Express and the State of Florida, these historic launch sites are now beginning a new mission as commercial facilities that will help take the United States back to the surface of the Moon.”
Moon Express will use innovative low cost robotic spacecraft to collapse the cost of exploring the Moon for scientific and commercial purposes, with a long-term vision of exploring and unlocking the value of lunar resources. Last October the company announced a contract with Rocket Lab USA for three ‘Electron’ launch vehicles, beginning with a maiden mission next year in 2017.