Moon Express, a private company that is seeking to land on the lunar surface to explore and mine Earth’s nearest neighbor for its resources, announced that it would be taking over launch complexes 17 and 18 at Cape Canaveral to develop and test its lunar landers. The company licensed the facilities as part of an agreement with the United States Air Force’s 45th Wing.

The two launch complexes are replete with plenty of Space history. Launch Complex 17 launched NASA’s Pioneer and Explorer probes as well as two Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity.

Launch Complex 18 saw the first attempts by the United States to launch a satellite into orbit.

Moon Express will develop the site into a commercial development facility with an up to $1.85 million grant from the state of Florida which the company will match. Florida benefits from the deal with the creation of 25 to 50 jobs directly and the creation of potentially hundreds of jobs indirectly over the next five years.

The acquisition by Moon Express of the two venerable launch complexes represents another stage in the transformation of Florida’s space coast into a mixed commercial and government spaceport.

Companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin are also moving to Florida to further their operations. Thus the economic vibrancy of the area will not be entirely dependent on the vagaries of government funding of NASA and military space launches. Florida’s space coast is just recovering from a severe slump as a result of the end of the space shuttle program and President Obama’s cancellation of the Constellation deep space exploration program.

Moon Express is a frontrunner in the Google Lunar X Prize contest, a modern moon race that is pitting a number of private groups to be the first to land a robotic probe on the lunar surface and perform a number of tasks. The company has contracted with a company called Rocket Lab for three launches on its’s new Electron launch vehicle. Moon Express hopes that at least on of these launches will take place before the end of 2017, the current deadline for the Google Lunar X Prize.

Moon Express is currently working with a number of United States government agencies to acquire official sanction of its intent to land on the moon pursuant to the 1967 Outer Space Treaty.

Don't miss our page on Facebook!