Masten Space Systems declared bankruptcy

The aerospace company Masten Space Systems has filed for bankruptcy. It is known for winning a NASA contract to deliver cargo to the lunar surface in 2020. 

Contract with NASA

Masten Space is one of six companies awarded contracts under the NASA-funded CLIPS (Commercial Lunar Payload Services) program. It is aimed at attracting commercial firms to the development of the natural moon of our planet.

XL-1 lander (concept). Source: Masten Space Systems

According to the terms of the 75-million agreement concluded in 2020, Masten Space was supposed to deliver to the south pole of the Moon a set of nine scientific instruments designed to take samples of lunar soil and study their composition. Another cargo of the mission is a 12-kilogram Moon Ranger micro-rover. It is designed to demonstrate the technology of rapid movement over long distances on the lunar surface in autonomous navigation mode without communication with the Earth.

Masten Space planned to use the XL-1 lander developed by its specialists to deliver instruments and a rover to the Moon. Under the terms of the contract, it had to ensure the operation of the instruments provided by NASA for 12 Earth days. Initially, the launch of XL-1 was scheduled for 2022, but due to the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was postponed to November 2023.

Bankruptcy of Masten Space

Unfortunately, the company has recently run into financial problems, which forced it to cut staff and lay off many employees working on the XL-1 project. But it didn’t help and it had to declare bankruptcy. According to Masten Space, its assets are estimated at USD 10 to USD 50 million, and its liabilities are in the same range.The company’s largest creditor is SpaceX, which has a contract to launch XL-1.

Samples of aerospace equipment created by Masten Space. Source: Masten Space

To date, Masten Space is the second company that has failed to fulfill its obligations to deliver cargo to the Moon under the CLPS program. The first was OrbitBeyond, which refused a NASA contract in 2019. The remaining contracts are distributed between Intuitive Machines, Astrobotic Technology, Firefly Aerospace and Draper. The first launches on them are still scheduled for the end of this year.

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