Blue Origin founder and CEO Jeff Bezos unveiled the company’s Blue Moon lunar lander at an exclusive event last night. The standard variant of the next-generation lunar lander will be capable of delivering 3.6 metric tons of cargo to the Moon’s surface.
At an invitation-only event held at the Washington Convention Center on May 9, Jeff Bezos outlined Blue Origin’s vision to support a human return to the Moon and for the colonisation of the solar system. The Blue Origin CEO’s party piece of the event was a full-sized mockup of the Blue Moon, a large customisable lunar lander.
The Blue Moon lander will be launched aboard the company’s New Glenn rocket, which is set to make its maiden flight in 2021. According to Bezos, the standard variant will be capable of transporting 2.6 metric tons to the lunar surface while a “stretched tank” variant will boost that capability to 6.5 metric tons.
Unlike the Apollo Lunar Module, which was powered by hypergolic rocket engines, the Blue Moon is powered by Blue Origin’s liquid hydrogen-fueled BE-7 engine. The engine is capable of 4,500 kilograms of thrust (10,000 lbs of thrust) and will feature 3D-printed components. The company has been developing the engine for nearly 3 years and expects to hot fire test the engine for the first time this summer.
Once on the surface of the Moon, the lander will be powered by hydrogen fuels cells capable of supplying 2.5 kW of power, the equivalent of a very large solar array. The decision to use hydrogen fuel cells instead of solar arrays was made to allow the lander to survive lunar nights, which can last as long as two weeks.
During the presentation, Bezos confirmed that the company has offered the Blue Moon to NASA to support the agency’s bid to return to the Moon by 2024. As a result, Blue Origin may aim to begin uncrewed flights to the Moon in the early 2020s.