NASA Awards Lunar Lander Contracts to SpaceX, Blue Origin, Dynetics

Pablo Tucker
October 26, 2020

Nasa has awarded nearly US$1 billion (S$1.4 billion) in contracts to three space companies, including those owned by billionaires Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, to develop lunar landers as the United States seeks to send human beings to the Moon again.

30, awarded three corporations contracts worth $967 million to construct spacecraft capable of landing human beings on the Moon. This includes industry stalwarts like Lockheed Martin and Northrup Gunman, along with fresher faces such as Blue Origin and SpaceX. Once in lunar orbit, astronauts would transfer to an awaiting Moon lander.

"A technology demonstration mission like Lunar Flashlight, which is lower cost and fills a specific gap in our knowledge, can help us better prepare for an extended NASA presence on the Moon as well as test key technologies that may be used in future missions", said John Baker, Lunar Flashlight project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California.

Starship on Moon

Incredibly, that strategy appears to have worked and it's possible that we could see Lunar Starships flying to the Moon as early as 2022.

The Blue Origin bid was one of three that ended up winning a contract form NASA, alongside SpaceX's Starship and a human landing system developed by Dynetics working with a range of subcontractors.

In the coming months, Nasa will work with the companies to evaluate and refine the different designs.

The current NASA programme is known as Artemis, named after Apollo's twin sister and the goddess of the moon in Greek mythology.

As NASA prepares to return humans to the Moon in 2024, the space agency has made a decision to take the private route, selecting three US companies to develop an astronaut landing system. However, it also means that SpaceX must design and certify an entirely new kind of vacuum-optimized rocket engine - likely using gas propellant and fed by high-pressure tanks - for an extremely critical part of operations. "People are going to look at this and say, 'My goodness, we just saw Starship blow up again". The Elon Musk-led company wants to use its Starship concept, which would serve as a fully integrated lander and take-off vehicle.

Robotic missions begin with commercial lunar deliveries in 2021, humans return in 2024, and the agency will establish sustainable lunar exploration by the end of the decade. "We have a history of proven lunar technological expertise and capabilities at Marshall and across NASA that will pave the way for our efforts to quickly and safely land humans on the Moon in 2024".

Dynetics, a space firm recently acquired by Leidos Holdings Inc, will manage a team of 25 partners to develop its human landing system that a Boeing-Lockheed joint venture will launch on its Vulcan launch system.

This is breaking news, so be sure to return here for more updates.

Other reports by iNewsToday