NASA is going forward with plans to include competitiveness in the construction of Artemis Moon landers. The space program stated this week that it has chosen 5 US businesses to do extra work towards developing lunar lander ideas that would send individuals to the surface of the moon later on this decade. The total value of the awards was USD 146 million, with work scheduled to be finished over the course of the next 15 months. Blue Origin Federation (USD 25.6 million), Dynetics (USD 40.8 million), Lockheed Martin (USD 35.2 million), Northrop Grumman (USD 34.8 million), and SpaceX (USD 9.4 million) are among the selected contenders.
As per NASA, each one of these firms will continue to explore lander design concepts as well as analyze the landers’ efficiency, architecture, mission assurance requirements, and other factors. The businesses will also reduce the risks associated with the lunar landers by completing essential component testing and increasing the development of critical technologies. “A key Artemis objective is to build a long-term human settlement on the Moon through recurrent services utilizing lunar landers,” said Kathy Lueders, NASA’s chief of human spaceflight. “This crucial step provides the groundwork for US leadership in knowing more about the Moon, as well as understanding how to reside and operate in deep space for future missions deeper into the Solar System.”
The grants came approximately 5 months after NASA chose SpaceX to improve its Starship vehicle for a test Moon landing and eventual crew landing. NASA intended to pay two suppliers in April, however, Congress only authorized one-quarter of the funds requested. So, over the course of 5 years, SpaceX received a total amount of USD 2.89 billion. NASA announced plans to buy “repeat landing services” from American corporations to maintain a competitive atmosphere. After SpaceX’s test missions, this contract will fund operational outposts to the lunar surface.
The awards issued this week will “ultimately assist, define strategy and criteria for a future NASA’s Request for Proposal (RFP) to offer regular human transportation from the lunar orbit to the moon’s surface,” according to NASA. Congressional funding will decide the amount of future “recurring services” grants. Following SpaceX’s selection in April, the other two contenders for a lunar lander contract, the Blue Origin-led National Team, and Dynetics, filed a complaint with the US Government’s Accountability Office. That objection was refused, and Blue Origin had subsequently sued NASA in the United States Court of Federal Claims to have the contracts overturned. This debate is still ongoing. The group of national teams will likely remain intact as long as there is a possibility to secure the original contract, which was granted only to SpaceX. If that effort fails, the national team’s members are ready to go their own ways. The 15-month timeframe will allow them to consider alternative options.