SpaceX has secured its first commercial cargo contract to the lunar surface with startup Astrolab, which plans to use the opportunity to send its Flexible Logistics and Exploration (FLEX) rover to the Moon.
Astrolab has secured a position on an upcoming uncrewed Starship cargo mission through an agreement with SpaceX. The mission, which may launch as early as mid-2026, will involve transporting Astrolab’s rover to the lunar surface.
Jaret Matthews, the CEO of Astrolab, has disclosed to The New York Times that his company is among the limited group of customers who will be part of the flight. After its touchdown on the Moon, FLEX is anticipated to become the biggest rover to traverse the lunar terrain, as per Astrolab.
The FLEX rover, which is about the size of a Jeep Wrangler, is currently under development by Astrolab. Equipped with a robotic arm to aid with cargo, the rover has a maximum speed of 15 miles per hour (24 kmph). It is designed to carry equipment, supplies, and up to two astronauts across the lunar surface.
Looking further to the future, Matthews said that FLEX could assist with building a permanent human presence on the Moon and beyond. “Ultimately our goal is to have a fleet of rovers both on the Moon and Mars. And I really think I see these vehicles as the catalysts ultimately for the off-Earth economy,” he said.
Meanwhile, NASA has selected Starship as the spacecraft to land its astronauts on the Moon during the Artemis III mission, slated for 2025. However, before that, SpaceX plans to conduct an uncrewed flight to demonstrate the spacecraft’s capability to reach the Moon and make a successful landing. Provided that these timelines are followed, the commercial cargo mission featuring Astrolab’s rover could take place in 2026.