Space robotics start-up Astrobotic has signed a joint agreement with UK-based company Spacebit to start commercial and scientific lunar exploration with the first mission in 2021.

As part of the agreement signed at UK Space Conference 2019, Spacebit will deliver its first lunar payload on Astrobotic’s upcoming Peregrine lunar lander.

The Peregrine mission is scheduled to launch on a Vulcan Centaur rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, US.

Peregrine will be the first American mission to land on the Moon since Apollo astronauts touched down in 1972.

Spacebit CEO Pavlo Tanasyuk said: “We could not be more excited to fly this mission with Astrobotic.

“This mission will result in the first payload from the UK to reach the Moon surface and mark the beginning of a new era in commercial space exploration for Britain.”

This agreement comes after Spacebit has examined the field of commercial lunar delivery providers and confirmed the space robotics start-up to be the provider one of the most technically mature lunar lander programmes.

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With the signing of the latest agreement, Spacebit joins Astrobotic’s existing manifest of 16-signed contracts for delivery on the Peregrine Mission One.

Astrobotic CEO John Thornton said: “Astrobotic is very excited to bring Spacebit’s first payload to the Moon. Spacebit has pioneered a captivating new way of working on the lunar surface, and we look forward to more details being released soon.”

Last month, Astrobotic selected United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Vulcan Centaur rocket to launch its Peregrine lunar lander.

In April 2015, ULA unveiled details of Vulcan, a next-generation launch system intended to end US reliance on Russia-built rocket engines.