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As the US approaches its first manned mission to the moon in more than five decades, private firms like SpaceX, Lockheed Martin, and Axiom Space are taking a larger role in space travel and raking in billions of dollars’ worth of government contracts. Though a big part of any launch will be the rockets, space suits, and other materials involved, improving satellite communication networks between Earth and its moon will be critical in establishing a permanent base of operations on the lunar surface.

Though the US government and American firms are the leading parties in more than 100 planned moon missions throughout the end of the decade, China’s burgeoning space program will be doing everything it can to play catch up in the new space race. China’s space program has had a presence on the moon since 2013 and recently unleashed groundbreaking results from the country’s first lunar sample-return mission.

Related ETFs: SPDR S&P Aerospace & Defense ETF (XAR), Procure Space ETF (UFO)

Next week, NASA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) will name three Americans and one Canadian that will go to the moon as part of the upcoming Artemis II mission, set to launch sometime in or after November 2024. Artemis II will loop around the moon as part of the first human lunar mission since Apollo 17 in December 1972. This mission will set the stage for an already planned Artemis III mission, planned for takeoff sometime in 2025, which will mark humanity’s first crewed return to the lunar surface. Artemis III is an especially interesting mission since it will incorporate more assistance from private companies than any mission prior.

It’s expected that the vessel for that mission will be a SpaceX’s Starship, funded with more than $4.0 billion in US government contracts and modifications, while Axiom Space has worked directly with NASA to develop next-gen spacesuits for lunar excursions. Axiom holds a $1.26 billion contract with NASA, of which $228 million was deployed to develop the new Artemis-era space suits.

The promise of a return to human exploration of celestial bodies outside of Earth is not only significant for scientific achievement, but one that will prove lucrative for aerospace firms involved. According to Crescent Space Services CEO Joe Landon, there are now “over 100 missions planned to go to the moon over the next decade”, which is expected to generate a multibillion-dollar market for lunar communications and navigation services. Crescent is a newly-minted subsidiary of Lockheed Martin, formed out of the company’s ambition to establish a network of satellites in cislunar orbit prior to the launch of Artemis III. That network, named Parsec, is meant to solve the problem of reliable communications once a permanent outpost is established on the Moon by serving as a relay network between Earth and its moon in…

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