Three US companies have been selected to develop lunar landers for NASA’s Artemis program, which plans to land the first woman and next man on the surface of the Moon in 2024.
The three companies awarded human landing system contracts are Dynetics, SpaceX, and a team led by Blue Origin that includes Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Draper. According to a NASA press release, the total value of the three contracts is “$967 million for the 10-month base period.”
“With these contract awards, America is moving forward with the final step needed to land astronauts on the Moon by 2024, including the incredible moment when we will see the first woman set foot on the lunar surface,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “This is the first time since the Apollo era that NASA has direct funding for a human landing system, and now we have companies on contract to do the work for the Artemis program.”
Although the April 30 press release did not include a detailed breakdown of how much each team would receive, Eric Berger, a senior editor with Ars Technica, posted the breakdown on Twitter shortly after the initial announcement. According to Berger, the Blue Origin team is set to receive $579 million, Dynetics $253 million, and SpaceX $135 million.
In addition to varying awards, the three proposals differ significantly in their approach. Blue Origin plans to utilize a three-stage lander launched aboard a New Glen rocket. This approach is similar to that of the Apollo program and will offer very little to no reusability.
The Dynetics approach proposes a lander launched aboard a ULA Vulcan rocket that will utilize disposable fuel tanks. This will allow for the bulk of the lander to be reusable.
Finally, the SpaceX approach will be fully reusable making use of the company’s next-generation Starship spacecraft. This approach will likely be the cheapest and most sustainable. However, it is also the most ambitious of the three.
Over the next 10 months, the three teams will refine their lander concepts. NASA will then select a currently unknown number of approaches to be developed for demonstrations missions. Once the agency is satisfied with the performance of the selected landers, it will purchase transportation to the surface of the Moon as part of it’s “commercial space transportation services” program.