Blue Origin and SpaceX get million-dollar NASA nod to test Moon lander tech

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Eleven aerospace corporations will share greater than $45 million in funds from NASA to design and check prototypes for the Artemis Moon missions, the agency has announced. Among the established names like Northrop Grumman and Sierra Nevada are relative newcomers SpaceX and Blue Origin, trying to make a place for themselves on the agency’s largest push in many years.

The funds are to enable what NASA calls undefinitized contract actions, during which companions get to work earlier than negotiations on the rest of the contract have concluded. It principally exhibits that point is of the essence and that NASA is prepared to pay up front to somebody they could not even contract with later, simply to get a leap begin on the work that wants doing.

And what’s the work? They’ll be cooking up designs and prototypes for the Human Landing System, which as you may guess will take astronauts (and cosmonauts, and perhaps taikonauts) from a excessive lunar orbit to a low one, then to the surface, then back once more. The three parts are referred to as switch, descent and ascent respectively — and there’s a refueling one as nicely.

Each company may have a selected set of mechanisms or designs will probably be expected to supply, but none is predicted to place collectively the whole shebang.

“We’re eager to gather early business suggestions about our human touchdown system requirements, and the undefinitized contract motion will help us do this,” said NASA’s Greg Chavers in a press release. “This new strategy doesn’t prescribe a selected design or number of parts for the human landing system. NASA wants the system to get our astronauts on the floor and return them house safely, and we’re leaving a variety of the specifics to our business partners.”

In different words, that is nonetheless an information-gathering part for NASA, though the contractors must think about it as probably the first step in producing a serious system for Artemis, to allow them to’t do anything by halves.

None of the corporations was assigned design work on the ascender, which suggests the plans for that half aren’t as far advanced as the remaining. SpaceX shall be producing a research on the descent factor, whereas Blue Origin is taking over research for the descent and switch parts, plus a prototype for the latter.

We in all probability gained’t see these prototypes or studies any time quickly — if they’re not chosen for production they could remain trade secrets and techniques for future bids or on the off probability NASA modifications its mind. Even if they're chosen, they could need to undergo a number of more iterations before they can be shown publicly.

Here’s the complete listing of corporations and their duties beneath the brand new funding:

  • Aerojet Rocketdyne – Canoga Park, California
    • One switch car research
  • Blue Origin – Kent, Washington
    • One descent factor research, one switch car research and one switch car prototype
  • Boeing – Houston
    • One descent aspect research, two descent aspect prototypes, one transfer car research, one transfer car prototype, one refueling factor research and one refueling aspect prototype
  • Dynetics – Huntsville, Alabama
    • One descent aspect research and five descent factor prototypes
  • Lockheed Martin – Littleton, Colorado
    • One descent factor research, four descent component prototypes, one switch car research and one refueling factor research
  • Masten Area Methods – Mojave, California
    • One descent component prototype
  • Northrop Grumman Innovation Techniques – Dulles, Virginia
    • One descent aspect research, 4 descent factor prototypes, one refueling aspect research and one refueling aspect prototype
  • OrbitBeyond – Edison, New Jersey
    • Two refueling aspect prototypes
  • Sierra Nevada Corporation, Louisville, Colorado and Madison, Wisconsin
    • One descent component research, one descent component prototype, one switch car research, one switch car prototype and one refueling factor research
  • SpaceX – Hawthorne, California
    • One descent component research
  • SSL – Palo Alto, California
    • One refueling aspect research and one refueling aspect prototype