Cedar Park company to make 2 trips to the moon with new NASA contract

A mock-up of the Firefly Aerospace lunar lander called the Blue Ghost is located in Cedar Park

Key parts of the actual lander are being put together at the company’s spacecraft assembly center, near New Hope Road and Hwy 183-A. 

A little more than 550 employees have been busy working on that project. Now, they are going to build another.

"Couldn't be any cooler. If you'd have been here two days ago, the noise in this place was deafening when we announced it," said Firefly CEO Bill Weber.

That celebration, according to Weber, was about their new $112 million contact with NASA. The space agency wants Blue Ghost 2 ready for launch in 2026. 

The design, Weber says, is similar to the old Apollo lunar landers for a reason.

"Well, it's practical and it works. I think that's why a lot of America, when they see it, they connect because a lot of us connect back to those days," said Weber.

The two stage configuration includes a lander and a transfer vehicle that will orbit the moon. They’ll establish a communications system, linking up with the original Blue Ghost that’s expected to be on the moon by summer 2024. It's all part of NASA’s effort to send humans back to the moon.

"We got a lot of exploration. We have to do with unmanned craft to be able to understand those environments. So Blue Ghost one, when it touches down, it may be the first presence back on the surface of the moon since Apollo 17. All about data collection to inform NASA and the Artemis missions what they're about to undertake when we put people back, Blue Ghost 2 does the same thing on the far side of the moon, which nobody's ever been to where we're going," said Weber.

The first Blue Ghost will ride on a SpaceX rocket. The propulsion system that will get Blue Ghost to the moon is tested not far from US 183. 

Engines built by FireFly rumble to life at a site in Briggs, just north of Liberty Hill. Each test is another step closer to the goal of leaving Central Texas for the lunar surface.

"It has. It follows me home every day. I can see it in the sky. And it's very hard to leave your work at work," said Firefly Chief Engineer Will Coogan.

At one time, Coogan says he wanted to be in a rock band, and now he’s building rockets. His message to kids is simple

"You can do amazing things with basic tools. Just keep studying," said Coogan.