Written By: Zac Aubert
Published: Fri, May 19, 2023 2:29 PM
Latest Update: Fri, May 19, 2023 6:53 PM
NASA has selected Blue Origin's new version of Blue Moon for the 2nd Human Landing System contract. Blue Moon will be used for NASA's Artemis 5 mission.
Today we are excited to announce Blue Origin will build a human landing system as NASA’s second provider to deliver Artemis astronauts to the lunar surface...We are in a golden age of human spaceflight, which is made possible by NASA’s commercial and international partnerships. Together, we are making an investment in the infrastructure that will pave the way to land the first astronauts on Mars" - NASA Administrator Bill Nelson
Blue Origin has been awarded a contract worth $3.4 billion by NASA to design, develop, test, and verify the Blue Moon lander.
Blue Moon is a joint bid led by Blue Orgin with Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Draper, Astrobotic, and Honeybee Robotics.
Blue Moon will meet NASA's requirements for a sustanable human landing systems, enabling recurring astronaut expeditions to the lunar surface and facilitating docking with the Gateway space station in lunar orbit.
Blue Moon will be requried to conduct one uncrewed demonstration mission to the lunar surface, followed by a crewed demonstration on the Artemis V mission in 2029. Blue Origin has stated they will conduct multiple demo missions with Artemis V being the first time humans will board Blue Moon.
Artemis V will see four astronauts launch to lunar orbit aboard the Orion spacecraft using NASA's SLS (Space Launch System) rocket. After docking with Lunar Gateway Station, two astronauts will transfer to Blue Origin's Blue Moon Lander for a weeklong journey to the Moon's South Pole region.
During this trip, they will engage in scientific research and exploration activities. The mission serves as a demonstration of NASA's initial lunar exploration capabilities and the establishment of foundational systems to support complex missions in lunar orbit and on the surface.
Blue Moon will come in 2 variants offering crew and cargo capabilities. The Cargo variant will be capable of taking 30 tones to the lunar surface on a one way mission, or 20 tones to lunar surface if in a reusable cargo configuration.
Blue Moon is effectively a $7 Billion USD lunar lander project with NASA awarding over $3.4 Million, and Blue Origin stating they will be covering over 50% of the project cost.
In April 2021, NASA chose SpaceX's Lunar Starship to land the next American/Canadian astronaut mission to the lunar surface, with a targeted demonstration mission date of no earlier than April 2025. Since Then NASA has exercised an option under the original contract, requesting that SpaceX modify their proposed Lunar Starship to meet the agency's requirements for recurring services in a second demonstration mission. This approach allows NASA to maximize its investment and partnership with SpaceX.
"Having two distinct lunar lander designs, with different approaches to how they meet NASA's mission needs, provides more robustness and ensures a regular cadence of Moon landings...This competitive approach drives innovation, brings down costs, and invests in commercial capabilities to grow the business opportunities that can serve other customers and foster a lunar economy" - Lisa Watson-Morgan, Human Landing System Program Manager
To foster competition and ensure redundancy in transportation services for astronauts to the Moon, NASA announced plans to select a second commercial company's lunar lander. This second contract award, referred to as the Sustaining Lunar Development contract, in combination with the second option under SpaceX's initial landing award, will pave the way for recurring lunar transportation services for astronauts at the Moon.
The objective is to enhance competition and provide reliable transportation options for NASA's mission to the lunar surface.
Blue Moon stands 16M talls, while Lunar Starship stand 50m tall.
-- This is a developing story, more details will be added as the become available.
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