Credit: Rocket Lab

According to a story on, The X Prize Foundation announced that it has verified a Moon Express launch contract, making the company the second with an approved deal needed to participate in the $30 million Google Lunar X Prize competition.

The launch contract is between Moon Express and Rocket Lab and covers three launches of Rocket Lab’s still-in-development Electron small launch vehicle, with two of the launches scheduled for 2017.

“We are extremely proud to officially confirm receipt and verification of Moon Express’s launch contract,” said Bob Weiss, vice chairman and president of the X Prize Foundation, in a statement.

According to the story, Moon Express will use the launches to send a “micro-lander” called the MX-1E to the lunar surface.

Moon Express is now the second company to have a launch contract for their lunar lander spacecraft verified by the X Prize Foundation. An Israeli team, SpaceIL, had its contract to launch a lander on a SpaceX Falcon 9 verified by the foundation in October.

That initial launch contract verification allowed the foundation to formally extend the competition’s deadline to the end of 2017. Teams have until the end of 2016 to submit their own launch contracts in order to continue in the competition.

Sixteen teams remain in the competition, announced in September 2007, to land a privately-developed spacecraft on the moon, travel at least 500 meters across its surface, and return high-resolution videos and other data. Some teams are cooperating with others for launch arrangements.

Astrobotic Technology, a Pittsburgh-based company competing for the prize, has announced separate agreements with a Japanese team, Hakuto, and a Chilean one, AngelicvM, to fly their spacecraft to the moon along with Astrobotic’s own lander. Astrobotic officials said in October that they plan to sign a launch contract for a late 2017 mission on a SpaceX Falcon 9, but are waiting to finish signing up customers for their lander before finalizing the launch contract.