A few months after losing to SpaceX, Jeff Bezos Blue origin As a result of a follow-up program aimed at improving the ability to send astronauts to the moon, Space Venture and its two partners in the lunar lander project will receive new funding support from NASA.
Blue Origin, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman are not the only companies sharing a total of $146 million in fixed price awards. SpaceX and Dynetics-two competitors to the “national team” led by Blue Origin in NASA’s previous lunar lander solicitation campaign-will also get a share.
Follow-up plan, NextSTEP Appendix N, Seeking expertise to help NASA formulate strategies and requirements for the future collection, which will focus on establishing regular manned transportation from the lunar orbit to the lunar surface.
This is different from the competitive process that SpaceX won a $2.9 billion NASA contract to convert its Starship super rocket into a lunar landing system in April. That development plan, NextSTEP Appendix H, Only covers the first manned landing of NASA’s Artemis moon landing program, which is tentatively scheduled for 2024. Appendix N will lay the foundation for the expected subsequent landings.
“The establishment of a long-term human presence on the moon through the use of the lunar lander’s regular service is a major goal of Artemis,” NASA Deputy Director of Human Exploration and Operations Kathy Ludes, Said in the press release today“This critical step lays the foundation for the United States to play a leading role in learning more about the moon and learning how to live and work in deep space to achieve future solar system missions.”
Over the next 15 months, Blue Origin, headquartered in Kent, Washington, and four other companies will be responsible for developing lander design concepts and evaluating the conditions needed to transform them into sustainable systems. They will also test components and develop technology to mitigate the risks of future landers.
Blue Origin paid $25.6 million based on milestones, Lockheed Martin was $35.2 million, Northrop Grumman was $34.8 million, Dynetics was $40.8 million, and SpaceX was $9.4 million.
Back in April, when NASA awarded SpaceX the Exclusive Source Award for Appendix H, it stated that Congress did not provide sufficient funds to support more than one contractor. Blue Origin disputed NASA’s decision-initially challenged with the Government Accountability Office, and then in federal court.
NASA has suspended work with SpaceX on a $2.9 billion contract, awaiting a court ruling, which is expected to be rendered in November.
in his The first blog post as a NASA administrator, Bill Nelson admitted that “the performance of the contract will be delayed until November 8,” but said that the Appendix N ruling shows that broader efforts to support commercial lunar landers are still moving forward.
“We are pushing the industry to submit proposals for regular manned lunar transportation services next year,” Nelson said. “These services require astronauts to be carried in the lander from the Gateway in orbit to the lunar surface and back, and are expected to begin in the late 2020s.”
In the past, Blue Origin has complained about Appendix N and anticipated subsequent solicitations, namely, the Lunar Exploration Transportation Service or LETS, which is “Insufficient funds, undefined, [and would] Repeat much of the work done under Appendix H. “
It is not clear whether Blue Origin will collaborate with Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman on the concept of an Appendix N lunar lander. However, the fact that NASA gave them separate awards shows that they will be asked to come up with different concepts. We have contacted Blue Origin and NASA for more information, and we will update this report based on any news received.