The National Aeronautics and Space Administration selected nine space companies on Thursday to compete for $2.6 billion in contracts developing technologies to reach and explore the moon.
NASA picked Lockheed Martin, Astrobotic, Firefly Aerospace, Masten Space Systems, Moon Express, Draper, Intuitive Machines, Deep Space Systems and Orbit Beyond. The agency narrowed the field down to those nine, after receiving interest from more than 30 companies, including SpaceX, Blue Origin and Sierra Nevada Corp.
"We're doing something that's never been done before," NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said at the agency's announcement on Thursday afternoon. "When we go to the moon, we want to be one customer of many customers in a robust marketplace between the Earth and the moon."
The Commercial Lunar Payload Services program (also known as CLPS) builds upon the Space Policy Directive 1, signed by President Donald Trump last December. The directive called for NASA to return to the moon, directing the agency to send Americans to the lunar surface in preparation for trips to Mars.
Under CLPS, the agency will award multiple contracts for lunar missions over the next 10 years. Companies were only considered if they agreed to deliver the first mission by the end of 2021, according to NASA's request for bids earlier this year.
Correction: NASA received interest from more than 30 companies including SpaceX, Blue Origin and Sierra Nevada. An earlier version mischaracterized the three companies' involvement.