NASA reaches key milestone with US companies competing to provide moon landers

NASA has reached a key milestone with the U.S. companies competing to provide landers for future crewed missions to the moon.

The space agency’s Artemis program aims to land American astronauts on the moon by 2024. Working with commercial and international partners, it also plans to establish a sustainable human presence on Earth’s natural satellite by 2028.

NASA’s Human Landing System (HLS) program conducted Certification Baseline Reviews with a Blue Origin-led team, Dynetics, and SpaceX “to better understand their human landing system proposals and approach for the agency’s Artemis program,” the agency said, in a statement.

“The primary purpose of the CBRs was to finalize the functional and performance requirements for the companies’ landing system designs, confirm the standards to be applied to lander development, establish the baseline designs, schedules, and management plans for HLS contract execution and human spaceflight certification,” NASA said.

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The CBRs occurred about mid-way through the three contracts’ base period, which runs from May 2020 to February 2021.

Concept image of an Artemis Human Landing System approaching the lunar surface. (NASA)

NASA explained that Dr. Lisa Watson-Morgan, HLS program manager at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., chaired the CBR board that approved the certification baseline for each contractor.

“We wanted to be as open as possible in our procurement approach, to accelerate the process and to encourage innovation,” she said, in the statement. “It worked. Within one year, we were able to select three very different design solutions to accomplish the bold and challenging objective of sending astronauts to the lunar South Pole.”

“With firm-fixed-price contracts it is important to come to an agreement up front about how each contractor will proceed,” Watson-Morgan added. “While NASA wants to be as flexible as possible to achieve success, late changes can be costly and add to schedule risk.”

A key element of the Artemis program is also landing the first woman on the moon.

NASA REVEALS ITS VISION FOR THE ARTEMIS MOON LANDER THAT WILL RETURN US ASTRONAUTS TO THE LUNAR SURFACE

NASA recently tested the booster rocket technology that will be used to power future Artemis missions to the moon. The space agency conducted a full-scale booster test for its Space Launch System (SLS) rocket in Promontory, Utah last month.

The test is an important milestone for NASA’s Artemis program.

Last year, NASA revealed details of its vision for the Artemis Moon Lander that will return American astronauts to the lunar surface.

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Some lawmakers, however, have urged NASA to delay putting U.S. boots on the moon until 2028.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

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