WASHINGTON, May 1 (UPI) — NASA on Thursday announced the selection of Elon Musk’s U.S. space exploration technology company SpaceX, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Dynetics to design and build a lunar landing system to re-launch U.S. astronauts to the lunar surface by 2024,media reported.
Musk’s SpaceX, which will launch its first manned mission for NASA in May, will also develop a starship landing system that will send crew and 45 kilograms of cargo to the moon. SpaceX will launch the starship using its own Super Heavy launch vehicle, a fully reusable spacecraft currently under development by SpaceX that can be used for orbit, moon and Mars missions. Super Heavy, which is also currently under development, will serve as a fully reusable booster to push a massive, payload-laden starship into orbit.
Pictured: SpaceX manned starship rendering
NASA says the selection of starships will help it achieve its long-term goals because it is designed to be flexible and capable of “refueling” long-distance trips to transport astronauts in Earth orbit. SpaceX’s proposals include providing a demonstration of space propellant transfer between aircraft and an unmanned test landing on the moon.
In 2019, Bezos unveiled Blue Origin’s lunar lander, Blue Moon, which uses a more traditional design that is divided into upgrade and descent systems that are not as complete as the starship’s design. Blue Origin plans to launch a lunar landing system using its own heavy-duty rocket, the New Glenn.
Pictured: Blue Origin’s Blue Moon Lander Rendering
Blue Origin plans to have Lockheed Martin build an upgraded system, Northrop Grumman will provide a system to move the lander from the launch vehicle to its descent position, Blue Origin will manufacture the lander itself and the descent system, and Draper will provide aviation electronics and landing navigation.
Dynetics, a space company recently acquired by Leidos Holdings, has a long history of expertise in space and defense, first founded in 1969. It will form a team of 25 partners to develop manned landing systems, including landers with up and down capabilities. Dynetics plans to launch its lander on the Vulcan rocket of the Boeing-Lockheed joint venture United Launch Alliance (ULA). Dynetics is working with a number of subcontractors, including Sierra Nevada, to develop its systems.
Pictured: Concept design of the Dynetics manned landing system
The three companies will share A $967 million contract, but it is unclear how much each company will receive. Surprisingly, Boeing, NASA’s longtime contractor, was not selected. Unlike the Apollo program, which sent astronauts to the moon 50 years ago, NASA is preparing for a permanent base on the moon. The agency says this will eventually allow humans to reach Mars.
“We’re implementing the president’s space policy directive,” said Jim Bridenstine, NASA’s director. He called the choice “historic.” Lisa Watson-Morgan, NASA’s project manager for human landing systems, said choosing three suppliers would give NASA more options in case one of them lags behind in development. (Small)