Press Release

SpaceDev Offers Commercial Mars and Lunar Missions

By SpaceRef Editor
August 13, 1999
Filed under

BOULDER, Colo.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Aug. 13, 1999–SpaceDev Inc. (OTCBB:SPDV – news)
today announced it is offering low-cost Mars probe-carrier missions as a commercial
product, starting with the 2003 Mars launch opportunity.

SpaceDev is also offering lunar orbiters and derivatives of its newly revised Near Earth
Asteroid Prospector (NEAP) mission for sale as turn-key commercial products. Such
commercial deep-space missions are a first for the industry.

SpaceDev Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jim Benson made the announcement in
Boulder at the annual convention of the Mars Society.

“We are now offering to deliver small payloads on Mars-entry trajectories for a fixed price
of about $24 million. The estimated NASA procurement cost for a similar mission is thought
to be significantly higher than the SpaceDev fixed price, perhaps twice as much,” Benson
said during his remarks at the conference, later adding that “savings of comparable
magnitude are possible with SpaceDev’s turn-key lunar and asteroid missions.”

SpaceDev missions, unlike government-sponsored missions, will be insured against the risk
of launch-vehicle failure and catastrophic failures during mission operations. SpaceDev has
been working with its space-insurance broker, industry leader International Space Brokers
(ISB), to define the required coverage.


During his presentation, Benson detailed that the $24M charge for the Mars probe-carrier
mission was the total mission cost minus customer-provided payload costs. Such missions,
designed to release one to three entry probes into the Martian atmosphere, would launch
at the earliest between November 2002 and May 2003, arriving at the Red Planet in late
2003. Subsequent mission opportunities arise in 2005, 2007, 2009, etc., consistent with
recurring Earth-to-Mars launch periods.

Benson challenged the Mars Society to identify and finance just such a mission. “You say
things aren’t happening fast enough with NASA’s current Mars Exploration Program. Then
decide what you want to send to Mars, get a sponsor, and just do it! Inner planet
missions like this one can now be done for about the cost of a private jet or mega-yacht,”
he said.


For $20M SpaceDev will sell clients a lunar orbiter mission accommodating up to four
payloads — scientific instruments, advanced technologies such as the newly developing
Interplanetary Internet, a Web server or other experiments. Payloads could be fixed to or
ejectable from the main vehicle. With the relatively close lunar distances, very high data
rates are achievable from the Moon, including real-time, high-definition TV broadcasts of
lunar surface fly-overs and multiple earthrises.


SpaceDev’s recent success in identifying low-cost spacecraft design approaches and in
developing a range of modular microspacecraft concepts led the company to evolve its
two-year-old Near Earth Asteroid Prospector (NEAP) spacecraft design into a smaller,
simpler MicroNEAP. “We are in the business of producing low-cost, multi-use, modular
spacecraft that can be sent to any destination in the inner solar system. NEAP — as the
MicroNEAP implementation is a seamless addition to our growing, fixed-price space-mission
product line,” said Benson.

NEAP is to be launched in late 2001 for a rendezvous with the near-Earth asteroid Nereus
in mid-2002. SpaceDev has already negotiated a contract for one paying NEAP payload
and has an agreement with the University of Arizona for delivery of an advanced imaging
spectrometer instrument.

SpaceDev’s commercial deep-space missions utilize a spacecraft bus (chassis) design
derived from the intensive Mars mission and system definition effort completed by a
SpaceDev-led team in March this year under a contract with JPL. SpaceDev’s Mars
Micromissions Bus Feasibility Study sought to validate earlier JPL findings that selected
Mars missions are possible for less than $50M each using microspacecraft. Key to this
low-cost approach is that the microspacecraft be launched as secondary payloads on the
European Ariane 5 launch vehicle. Total mass of the bus, payload(s) and propellant at
launch is approximately 200 kg.

JPL followed these studies in June with a competitive procurement for the first NASA Mars
Micromission — either a carrier bus delivering the proposed Mars Airplane or a
communications and navigation orbiter — arriving at Mars in December 2003. Industry
proposals are currently being evaluated by JPL. The SpaceDev-led team elected not to bid
on that procurement.

Benson summarized his remarks to the Mars Society by saying, “The key element to
SpaceDev’s business plan is to offer deep-space missions as complete commercial
products, all the way from Mercury to Mars if the market so demands. For years NASA has
been encouraging the private sector to step up to the space-commercialization plate. We
have, and we intend to hit home runs. Any country, consortium or sufficiently wealthy
individual in the world can now afford to buy their own deep-space mission. The idea of
focused, inexpensive deep-space missions as a commercial product is as revolutionary
today as personal computers were only twenty years ago.”

SpaceDev (, a two-year-old, 70-person company based in Poway, in
northern San Diego County, is the world’s first commercial space exploration and
development company. Co-located in new Poway facilities are SpaceDev’s corporate
offices, its wholly owned subsidiary Integrated Space Systems (ISS,
and the firm’s Space Missions Division. The company’s other wholly owned subsidiary,
Space Innovations Limited (SIL,, is in Newbury, England.

SpaceRef staff editor.