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Masten files for bankruptcy after struggling with NASA’s lunar contract

Masten Space Systems’ Xombie lander completes a flight test at the Mojave Spaceport in 2019. Credit: NASA / Lauren Hughes

Edinburgh, 1 August 2022. – Space infrastructure company, Masten Space Systems, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection due to increasing debts following its 2020 contract from NASA for a robotic lunar lander.

Masten was founded in 2004 and had won a number of NASA contracts. The last one was a  US $75 million award two years ago to deliver eight scientific payloads to the Moon’s South Pole. Masten Mission 1 would have utilized the company’s Xelene lunar lander, launched aboard a SpaceX rocket in 2023. Masten immediately started upscaling but then the Covid pandemic hit, which changed the company’s plans. As the development continued, it became clear that the firm went well over the planned budget.

The board of directors decided to let CEO Sean Mahoney go in January. A month later, NASA issued a payment of US $1.4 million to the company, which then laid off 20 people in June. Just last month, Masten furloughed nearly all remaining employees, according to CNBC.

NASA said that in the event that Masten is unable to fulfil its contract, the agency will distribute its payloads among other Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) flights. To date, NASA has paid US $66.1 million of the contract for Masten Mission 1.

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