While not yet the official licensing agency for lunar and interplanetary transportation (no official law saying so has yet been passed), the US Government Federal Aviation Authority’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation has become the de facto licensing authority for commercial spaceflight outside of low Earth orbit. This is because the office has signed off an authorisation allowing the US firm Moon Express Inc to send its MX-1E lander series to the Moon.
The international Outer Space Treaty (1967) requires all sovereign nations taking part in long-range commercial space missions to take responsibility for them and license them properly.
According to Article VI of the treaty: “The activities of non-governmental entities in outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, shall require authorization and continuing supervision by the appropriate State Party to the Treaty.”
The MX-1E lander, to be used on the first mission, was designed to compete for the US$30 million Google Lunar X-Prize for a craft to prove it can land and move around the lunar surface. The MX-1E craft would do this using a propulsive “hop” system. The first flight in the MX-1 series of landing craft is due in October 2017 and will carry some basic scientific payloads.
Later flights are expected to take part in lunar prospecting for minerals and water. In October last year Lunar Express Inc contracted Rocket Lab for Electron rocket launches to the Moon.