PTScientists lander
PTScientists would develop a lunar lander as part of this mission concept being studied for ESA, with ArianeGroup providing the launch and Space Applications Services ground control services. Credit: PTScientists

WASHINGTON — German lunar lander company PTScientists, which filed for bankruptcy in July, announced it has been acquired by an unidentified aerospace company, allowing it to continue operations.

Berlin-based PTScientists and the law firm Görg, which handled the company’s bankruptcy administration, announced the acquisition in a German-language statement published Sept. 2. The announcement said neither the company buying PTScientists nor the purchase price would be disclosed, but that the deal was effective Sept. 1.

The acquisition, the announcement stated, allows PTScientists to retain its staff of about 60 people who had been working on lunar lander concepts, including a study for the European Space Agency of a mission to send a lander to the moon to perform experiments for in-situ resource utilization. ESA awarded that study to a team that included PTScientists as well as launch vehicle company ArianeGroup in January.

Sascha Feies, the Görg lawyer appointed as insolvency administrator when PTScientists filed for bankruptcy in July, said in the statement he was “very pleased” to find a buyer that allows PTScientists to continue operations, citing the company’s innovative work on lunar lander missions.

PTScientists, once known as Part-Time Scientists, was a competitor in the Google Lunar X Prize, which offered a $20 million grand prize for the first privately developed lunar lander. The company was not one of the five finalists selected by the X Prize Foundation in early 2017, but continued its effort to develop a lunar lander outside the competition, which expired a year later without a winner.

The company appeared to make making progress on a lander called Alina it planned to launch in 2020 or 2021, emphasizing support it received from major companies like Audi, Vodafone and Red Bull Media House, a subsidiary of beverage company Red Bull. However, the company filed for bankruptcy July 5, citing “unplanned delays had occurred in the acquisition of further investor and promotion funds.” The company didn’t state how much funding it had been seeking.

When PTScientists filed for bankruptcy, the company’s chief executive, Robert Boehme, sounded an optimistic note, expecting it to secure the financing it needed to continue operations. “But due to the clear progress and success we have achieved in the last months, we have the best prerequisites to emerge stronger from the insolvency proceedings and implement our lunar mission as planned,” he said in a statement then.

Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...