A private moon lander has partnered up with Boeing's United Launch Alliance (ULA) for its maiden mission to the moon in 2019.
Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic's robotic Peregrine lander will use ULA's Atlas V rocket to make its first trip to the moon on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.
The lunar lander – a kind of spacecraft used specifically for moon landings – will carry 77 lbs (35 kilograms) of cargo in its first journey. It has so far signed 11 contracts with six nations who want to carry payload on the flight.
Astrobotic's maiden launch will serve as a "key demonstration" to NASA and other international space agencies of the moon lander's abilities, the company said in a press announcement.
In future it hopes to increase its cargo capacity seven-fold to 585 lbs.
It is also offering the opportunity for consumers to send mementos, such as rings and photos, into space using MoonBoxes costing from $460. Working in collaboration with DHL, Astrobotics will provide users with mission status updates and documentation of delivery, while the keepsakes will remain on the moon for future generations, the company suggests.
"We are thrilled that Astrobotic has selected ULA to launch the Peregrine Lander to the Moon," said ULA president and CEO, Tory Bruno. ULA is a joint venture between Boeing Defence, Space & Security, a division of Boeing, and Lockheed Martin Space Systems.
Astrobotics was a former contender for the Google Lunar XPRIZE, a competition offering $30 million to the first private company to land a robotic spacecraft on the moon and move it 500 meters.
It withdraw from the competition last year, but five teams – SpaceIL, Moon Express, Synergy Moon, TeamIndus, and HAKUTO – have until December 31, 2017 to complete the mission.