NASA has chosen five businesses to do research on lunar landers

NASA will award $146 million to five organizations representing the three teams that competed to create the Artemis lunar lander to conduct research and development for future lunar lander designs. The grants for what NASA refers to as Appendix N of the Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships were announced on Sept. 14 by NASA (NextSTEP). In July, NASA published a request for ideas for NextSTEP Appendix N to support development on “viable” human landing system options for missions after Artemis 3, the Artemis program’s first crewed lunar landing mission.

Three of the beneficiaries are members of Blue Origin’s so-called “National Team,” which won $25.6 million. Northrop Grumman received $34.8 million, while Lockheed Martin got $35.2 million.

While each of the three businesses earned independent contracts, a Lockheed representative acknowledged that the company is still a member of the Blue Origin-led group and is looking into additional options. In a statement to SpaceNews, Lisa Callahan, who serves as the vice president and the general manager in charge of the commercial, civil space at the Lockheed Martin, said, “Lockheed Martin continues to be dedicated to the National Team and their smart, safe, and sustainable lander system.”

“As a long-time and valued NASA partner, we believe it is critical to give alternative methods to help shape the plan for both a long-term human presence on the moon and future human trips to Mars,” she added.

A Northrop official echoed this sentiment. Northrop Grumman’s vice president of civil and commercial satellites, Steve Krein, said in a statement to SpaceNews, “We continue to engage in partnership with the Blue Origin and the National Team to fulfill NASA’s ambitious goals to return to the moon and Mars.” “In addition to those joint initiatives, we are contributing our distinctive skills and capabilities to the exploration of alternative perspectives for a long-term, sustainable program to return humans to the moon and stay.”

Blue Origin was one of three bidders for NASA’s Human Landing System (HLS) project, which funds the creation of a lunar lander as well as a demonstration flight. Another HLS bidder, Dynetics, won $40.8 million.

In April, SpaceX, that won a $2.9 billion contract for the lunar lander centered on their Starship vehicle, defeated both Blue Origin’s National Team and Dynetics. SpaceX was also given an Appendix N award at $9.4 million, the smallest of NASA’s five awards.

Neither NASA Agency nor any of the firms have said what they intend to do with the grants. NASA stated in a statement that the money would go toward concept research and risk-reduction measures, as well as giving the companies a chance to comment on NASA’s criteria for the crewed human landing services. Appendix N is meant to serve as a bridge for NASA’s Lunar Exploration Transportation Services (LETS) program. The agency will purchase crewed lunar landing services for future Artemis missions, similar to purchasing cargo services and commercial crew for the International Space Station.

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