NASA lunar payload service provider Masten Space Systems begins bankruptcy process
Masten Space Systems began the process of filing for bankruptcy on Thursday, telling a Delaware court that it owed millions in liabilities to companies including SpaceX, Astrobotic, NuSpace and others.
Masten Space, a startup founded in 2004, had ambitions to send a lander to the moon as early as next year. The company was selected by NASA under the agency’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services program to deliver eight payloads to the lunar surface. That contract was for $75.9 million. The agency also tapped Masten for a separate lunar mission to collect moon-based resources for return to Earth.
More recently, the company said it was developing a GPS-like navigation system for the moon, part of a contract awarded through the Air Force Research Laboratory’s AFWERX program.
According to the Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection filing, Masten estimated that it had between 50-99 creditors, between $10 million-$50 million in assets and between $10 million-$50 million in liabilities. The Chapter 11 request was signed by David Masten, president and CTO of the company. The filing breaks down the exact amount Masten owes its creditors: the largest amount to SpaceX, for $4.6 million; $2.7 million to Psionic; $2.7 to Astrobotic; and $1.6 to NuSpace. An additional 16 creditors are listed on the application.
The company will be selling its launch credit with SpaceX (SpaceX was selected to send Masten's XL-1 lander to the moon) to Intuitive Machines, one of its competitors.
The filing was made in the Delaware Bankruptcy Court, case number 22-10657.
Update: Masten sent the following statement to TechCrunch: "Masten intends to use the chapter 11 process to streamline Masten's expenses, optimize its operations, and conduct sale processes that maximize value for its unsecured creditors. We expect the case to move quickly in order to minimize expenses. We are hopeful that this process will enable Masten to continue operations and deliver value for its customers and the space industry."
NASA also responded to TechCrunch's request for comment. "NASA received notification its payloads slated for delivery aboard Masten Mission One may be impacted by Masten business operations," the agency said. "The agency is working closely with the company to ensure that any potential changes comply with Federal Acquisition Regulations. In the event Masten Space Systems is unable to complete its task order, NASA will manifest its payloads on other CLPS flights." NASA added that it has already paid $66.1 million of the $81.3 million contract value.