“To accelerate our return to the Moon, we are challenging our traditional ways of doing business,” said Marshall Smith, director for human lunar exploration programs at NASA Headquarters. “Our team is excited to get back to the Moon as quickly as possible, and our public/private partnerships to study human landing systems are an important step in that process.”
NASA awarded the contracts as Appendix E of the agency’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) program. The 11 companies selected are Aerojet Rocketdyne, Blue Origin, Boeing, Dynetics, Lockheed Martin, Masten Space Systems, Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems, OrbitBeyond, Sierra Nevada Corporation, SpaceX and SSL. Each company will study and develop systems for all or some of the key elements of a human lunar landing system including the descent, transfer and refuelling elements.
“This new approach doesn’t prescribe a specific design or number of elements for the human landing system,” said Greg Chavers, human landing system formulation manager at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. “NASA needs the system to get our astronauts on the surface and return them home safely, and we’re leaving a lot of the specifics to our commercial partners.”
A total of $45.5 million was awarded to the 11 companies, with each company expected to contribute at least 20% of the total project cost. NASA hopes that this approach will reduce the huge burden on the taxpayer that typically accompanies a program of this scope.