US-based space agency NASA on Thursday announced nine commercial American companies in a partnership to develop lunar robotic landers in the coming decade.
NASA would buy space on commercial robotic landers to deliver payloads to the lunar surface, missions that could start as early as next year, Xinhua news agency reported.
Those companies are eligible for competing for NASA's contracts valued at $2.6 billion, according to the US-based space agency.
"The relatively small and inexpensive payloads delivered via the CLPS program would be followed by more traditional medium- and large-class missions," said NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine.
CLPS stands for Commercial Lunar Payload Services. It is an experimental part of the agency's plan for Americans to orbit the Moon starting in 2023, and land astronauts on the surface no later than the late 2020s.
"These early commercial delivery missions will also help inform new space systems we build to send humans to the Moon in the next decade," said NASA.
Those companies are Astrobotic, Deep Space Systems, Firefly Aerospace, Intuitive Machines, Lockheed Martin, Mastern Space Systems, Moon Express, Draper and Orbit Beyond.
Orbit Beyond, a spacecraft company, is expected to fly its spacecraft to the Moon by 2020.
Masten Space Systems has a fleet of lunar landers that it plans to send to the Moon in 2021 while Moon Express also also has a host of landers that vary in size and capability.
Astrobotic Technology has built a lander called Peregrine, and have obtained backing from NASA to create a standalone system to land on the moon.
Lockheed Martin is planning for a massive lander that could ferry four astronauts from the Lunar Gateway to the moon, while Deep Space Systems is an aerospace engineering company developing the Mars Phoenix lander.
Firefly Aerospace designs, manufactures and operates launch vehicles for the small satellite and Draper works to provide payload operations guidance systems for the lunar lander.
Intuitive Machines, based in the state of Texas, specializes in autonomous systems.
Bridenstine said it was not a "guarantee" that all those missions would be successful, but even failed ones would be equally important.