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Moon Express lander
An artist’s conception shows Moon Express’ MX-1E spacecraft making its approach to the moon. (Moon Express Illustration)

Moon Express, which aims to start missions to the moon within the next couple of years, says it has raised $2.5 million in bridge financing and has begun a $20 million Series B financing round, anchored by a $10 million lead investor.

Proceeds will go toward building out facilities in Cape Canaveral, Fla., and developing the spacecraft for its commercial lunar flight program, the company said today in a news release.

Since its founding in 2010, Moon Express has been working on a space transport system that’s been called a “FedEx for space.” The company, which has Seattle-area entrepreneur Naveen Jain as its co-founder and executive chairman, was a competitor for the Google Lunar X Prize. Although the prize went unwon, Moon Express is continuing to work on a series of spacecraft for trips to the moon and other off-Earth destinations with backing from NASA’s Lunar CATALYST program.

Moon Express’ co-founder and CEO, Bob Richards, announced the new financing at The World Innovation Network Global Summit in Chicago.

“We are at the dawn of an exciting new era of lunar exploration and development,” Richards said. “We’re excited about the new U.S. space policy to return to the moon in a sustainable way with commercial partners, and we look forward to working with NASA and other space agencies in exploring Earth’s eighth continent.”

Miami-based Minerva Capital Group led the $2.5 million bridge round and is supporting the $20 million Series B round.

“Moon Express has a unique and well-thought-out economic model that we think is compelling,” said Jocelyn Cortez-Young, Minerva managing partner and founder. “We support visionary entrepreneurs and companies pursuing transformative innovation toward a social good.”

Moon Express is among more than two dozen companies that have voiced interest in NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services program, which is aimed at buying rides for payloads on commercial lunar landers. Two companies headquartered in the Seattle area, Blue Origin and Spaceflight Industries, are also on the list. NASA is expected to select its first vendors by the end of this year.

The start of Moon Express’ lunar trips is targeted for 2020. During the Google Lunar X Prize competition, the company struck a deal for launches on Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket, but a final decision on launch arrangements has not yet been announced.

Moon Express has a 72-acre campus at Cape Canaveral, located at the former Launch Complexes 17 and 18.

For years, the company has been involved in a drawn-out contract dispute with Intuitive Machines. In January, a federal jury in Delaware awarded Intuitive Machines $4.1 million in cash and equity, but the case is still under litigation.

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