|Moon Express co-founder and CEO Bob Richards shows off model of the MX-1 lunar lander in Las Vegas, Thursday, December 5, 2013 [William Pomerantz].|
California-based Moon Express unveiled the blueprint and first artwork of its MX-1 lunar lander on Thursday in Las Vegas, during the last day of the Autodesk University computer-aided design conference. In addition to delivering payloads to the lunar surface, the coffee-table-sized MX-1 could also help service satellites, deploy "cubesats" in orbit and clean up space junk, company officials say.
"We really have tried to create a multifaceted, flexible and scalable spacecraft that can be utilized by other people for a number of different business applications," Moon Express co-founder and CEO Bob Richards told Space.com.
Moon Express designed the MX-1 from the ground up, Richards said. When fully fueled and ready for launch, it will weigh just 1,320 pounds (600 kilograms), with rocket fuel constituting more than 75 percent of the mass.
|Notional view of the Moon Express MX-1 lander and multi-purpose remote operated multi-purpose platform in lunar orbit [Moon Express].|
"With that, we got rid of a huge amount of mass," he said.
The MX-1's main rocket engine will burn hydrogen peroxide, though it also relies on kerosene as an afterburner to accelerate out of Earth orbit and head toward the moon.
The lander will be capable of delivering 132 pounds (60 kilograms) of payload to the lunar surface. Unlike the landers that NASA developed during the Apollo program, the craft has no legs; instead, it will land slowly and softly on one of its empty fuel tanks, whose collapsibility will cushion the blow.
The MX-1's maiden moon flight is slated to occur in late 2015 as part of the $40 million Google Lunar X Prize, an international challenge to land a robot on the lunar surface, have it travel at least 1,650 feet (500 meters) and send data and images back to Earth.