Having previously announced that it had signed a launch contract in pursuit of the Google Lunar XPRIZE, Moon Express has now received official verification of the contract from XPRIZE. It is the second team receive verification, after SpaceIL. The news kicks off a new space race.

The Google Lunar XPRIZE is a global competition in which privately funded teams are vying to to land an unmanned spacecraft on the surface of the moon by Dec. 31st, 2017. Moon Express says it is taking advantage of "exponential technology" like 3D printing and inexpensive sensors to dramatically reduce the capital required to achieve such an undertaking.

"Our long-term goal is to unlock lunar resources for the benefit of humanity, and we are thrilled to have our contract in place with Rocket Lab allowing us to provide low-cost missions to the moon for science and commerce," says Moon Express co-founder and CEO Bob Richards.

The agreement states that Moon Express will use its own MX-1E lunar lander paired with Rocket Lab's Electron rocket for three missions. The missions will be launched from either New Zealand or the United States.

In order to stay in the competition, the remaining 14 teams must have their launch arrangements verified by XPRIZE by Dec. 31, 2016.