Jeff Bezo's aerospace company Blue Origin is no longer planning to build its own giant Moon Lander. The company announced today that it is teaming with three other space companies – Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Draper – to develop a NASA lunar landing system that can bring people completely to and from the lunar surface.
Working together, companies are better prepared to meet NASA's accelerated goal of bringing people back to the moon by 2024. "We recognize that this project and the time frame required by the nation are ambitious – very ambitious," said Brent Sherwood, vice president for advanced development programs at Blue Origin, during a press conference. "And so, together with our partner, NASA, we brought together the best in the industry to make that happen."
NASA urgently needs a lunar module as the agency prepares to send the first female to the Moon as part of its Artemis program. The Space Agency had originally planned to make the first landing for Artemis in 2028, but in March, Vice President Mike Pence called on NASA to shorten its timeline by four years. As a result, NASA has sought to award contracts for key vehicles that it needs to accomplish such a monumental achievement. On September 30, the agency officially called the aerospace industry to submit lander drafts due on November 1
Before Now Both Blue Origin and Lockheed Martin were rivals when it came to the Artemis program, as they both created their own Moonland designs Public had presented. In May, Bezos unveiled the Blue Land concept of Blue Origin, known as Blue Moon, which the company had secretly worked on for the last three years. The company also showed a brand new engine for the lander named BE-7, which would lower the vehicle to the lunar surface. A month earlier, Lockheed Martin had worked out his own plans for a lunar lander. This concept was significantly influenced by the design of the Orion spacecraft the company developed for NASA to bring people into space.
Now the companies have decided to join forces. Blue Origin plans to build the actual lander together with the BE-7 main engine itself. Lockheed Martin plans to build the lander's portion of the lander – the vehicle in which the crews will sail when they lift off the moon . Both vehicles will continue to be based on the designs of the two companies proposed earlier this year, but will be integrated together. Blue Origin will also be in charge of the entire project, while Lockheed Martin will train and direct the air traffic controllers who will lead the lander into space. "We realize there is a tremendous amount to do," Sherwood said. "The schedule based on it really underlines this. It made the most sense for us to come together and try to give this to NASA. "
In the meantime, Draper's job is to provide all the flight software for the system that allows guidance and navigation to the Moon. Northrop Grumman will create a kind of in-space ferry known to the lander as a transfer element. If the lander is not on the surface, then he should live in a new space station, which wants to build the NASA around the moon and gateway calls. Astronauts flying from Earth land at the Gateway and descend into the lander on their way to the lunar surface. Nevertheless, the gateway will not be close enough to the lunar surface for the lander to land directly. This is where the transfer element comes into play. This ferry is necessary to bring the lander from the station to the right height above the moon for the lander to do his thing.
Both Northrop and Draper have a lot of experience in their respective fields. Draper developed in the 1960s and 1970s, the lead computer, which brought the Apollo-human landers to the moon. And Northrop says it will base the transfer element's design on a spacecraft it's already making on a regular basis: the Cygnus capsule, which sends supplies to the International Space Station. Companies claim that they should reach the ambitious 2024 goal by using designs from existing systems.
"If we all come together and adopt existing systems that the government has already invested in, and we & # 39; In which we have already invested, the best use of the money seemed to be to the American public to bring it together and reuse those components, "said Lisa Callahan, vice president and general manager of commercial civil space at Lockheed Martin Space, during the press conference. The companies did not go into details about how they want to build and test their vehicles. However, NASA understands that the Agency has no time to carry out a demonstration of unmanned vehicle landing before people enter the lander. Blue Origin also claims that the Lander elements can launch to the moon with the New Glenn rocket the company is currently developing. However, any capable rocket can do the trick. "It's a flexible architecture whose elements can be launched on multiple commercial launch vehicles," said Sherwood.
Of course, this partnership largely depends on NASA selecting the companies that are developing their country system for the Artemis system, which is not yet done. This decision could be taken soon in the coming months.