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NASA selects nine companies to compete for commercial moon landing missions – Spaceflight Now

A conceptual illustration of Lockheed Martins McCandless Monthly Loan for NASA's Commercial Lunar Payloads Services (CLPS). NASA / Lockheed Martin…

A conceptual illustration of Lockheed Martins McCandless Monthly Loan for NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payloads Services (CLPS). NASA / Lockheed Martin

NASA announced Thursday nine companies that will be able to compete for up to $ 2.6 billion in contract in the next decade to bring scientific instruments and technological demo payloads to the moon aboard commercial robotlanders, a first step in which agency officials said will promote increased private investment in deep space exploration and a possible return of people to the moon’s surface.

The nine companies selected by NASA will own and operate the robbery landers, while NASA buys spacecraft capacity to place research equipment. It represents a change in NASA’s traditional ways of developing missions to the moon and other solar system destinations, where the government finances, owns and monitors all aspects of the project.

“We do something that has never been done before,” said NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine. “When we go to the moon, we want to be a customer of many customers in a robust market between the Earth and the Moon, and we want several suppliers like competing for cost and innovation. “

Bridenstine said Commercial Lunar Payload Services, or CLPS (pronounced” clips “), the program is a way that NASA is trying to jump on a stagnant US exploration program that has seen start and stop earlier The Trump Administration has instructed NASA to emphasize astronauts return to the moon surface, a target that was circumvented to focus on Mars investigation under the Obama White House.

NASA chief said that commercial companies were included as winners announced on Thursday, to make the current moon’s exploration effort “more resilient” than before.

“The reason for this is more robust than before, is because we have commercial customers that are not necessarily NASA … and we have international partners at a level we have never seen before on this planet – more partners than ever before, “Bridenstine said.

While an astronaut’s landing on the surface of the moon is still a decade or more gone, NASA wants to return US science payload to the moon surface much earlier and to a bargain. NASA has chosen nine companies to be eligible to carry NASA-sponsored experiments to the moon, starting as soon as next year:

  • Astrobotic Technology Inc., based in Pittsburgh
  • Deep Space Systems, based in Littleton, Colorado
  • Draper, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • Firefly Aerospace Inc., based in Cedar Park, Texas
  • Intuitive Machines LLC, based in Houston
  • Lockheed Martin Space, based in Littleton, Colorado
  • Mast Space Systems Inc., based in Mojave, California
  • Moon Express, based in Cape Canaveral, Florida
  • Orbit Beyond, based in Edison, New Jersey

These companies will be able to bid on NASA mission decisions specific instruments and payload to the surface of the moon, originally aboard small stationary landlords, but eventually on larger spacecraft and mobile robots. The announcement Thursday did not ban state aid to any of the companies, but only allowed the winners to compete for missions not yet released by NASA.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, in a presentation on Thursday at NASA’s headquarters, announces companies that will compete for the Agency’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services program. Credit: NASA / Bill Ingalls

In the end, some or all companies can win NASA contracts for lunar lander missions. None of the competitors announced Thursday a contractual gain, and NASA does not finance any of the development costs of the country, which must be funded through other sources.

“The companies … become part of the catalog,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, director of the NASA Research Council. “As part of it, they will compete for tasks that we will spend weeks and months from now. So we will not be on the verge of this and we begin to set up tasks.”

“How they will bid it’s up to them, “said Zurbuchen.” They will also choose how they can come to the moon. “

The companies will provide an” end-to-end “service to NASA, with the entrepreneurs responsible for choosing start-up vehicles, building and operating moon landers spacecraft, and possibly land-repellent vehicles for assembly missions.

The CLPS agreement is similar to the way NASA’s launcher provides rockets for the Agency’s scientific satellites. Several companies are eligible to compete for such launches, and NASA releases mission orders for each specific mission, receives bids, and then selects a winner to perform the mission.

Zurbuchen said that the CLPS program catalog Far companies will change over time, as potential landowners gather, develop, or perhaps leave the program. There will also be opportunities for more companies to be added to the directory, he said.

NASA hopes to build up commercial landing opportunities in the early mid-2020s to eventually lead to the development of a human-ranking lander late in the next decade. In parallel with commercial moon missions, NASA aims to build a mini-space station, or Gateway, in the moon’s orbit in the 2020s, which could serve as a hub for landlords who go to and from the moon’s surface.

Space Agency officials say that the return to the moon will pave the way for a possible human mission to Mars. But many details about Gateway’s construction and funding have not been completed, and plans for an obsessed mission to Mars are still tough.

While NASA has chosen the companies it says, US hardware will return to the surface of the moon for the first time since 1972 – when the last Apollo crew landed – the agency is now considering what instruments are ready to launch on commercial moon probes, maybe then Soon as the end of 2019.

“We believe there are a lot of amazing science that we can do on the surface of the moon, in fact science that we can not do anywhere else than the moon’s surface,” Bridenstine said. “Our cost and risk are lower than it could otherwise be, and we have several suppliers competing for cost and innovation.”

NASA released a call for the CLPS program in September, and the proposals took place in October. 9. The agency officials did not reveal how many companies submitted proposals for the CLPS program, but a list of “interested” published on the federal government’s FedBizOpp procurement website comprised 28 companies. Among the interesting parties were SpaceX and Blue Origin, two of the largest private back space companies, but neither selected by NASA, and it is not known if they submitted proposals.

The CLPS program is nevertheless aimed at capturing small lunar landlords who can launch within the next two years. SpaceX and Blue Origin work on bigger vehicles – SpaceX on the giant BFR launch and spacecraft and Blue Origin on the Blue Moon lunar lander – and is not expected to be ready for moon missions until 2023 or 2024 earliest.

“Think of it as venture capital,” Bridenstine said about NASA’s support for commercial landing programs. “Our investment is low because we have other investors. Our investment is low, the risk is higher than otherwise would be, but we have more suppliers. In other words, the portfolio is bigger so we can take risks.”

” We take pictures on goals here. We try to get it done quickly, he continued. “We are trying to quickly develop an American ability to deliver small payloads to the surface of the moon, and then grow from there. We want middle class landers, we want big-scale landlords, and of course we will have a human-class international champion within a decade. say, we also want to get there soon. “

NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine (left) and science director Thomas Zurbuchen (far right) represent representatives of the CLPS winners. Credit: NASA / Bill Ingalls

The Commercial Lunar Lander initiative is an extension of NASA’s efforts to commercialize crew and cargo in low ground.

NASA appointed SpaceX and Northrop Grumman – when Orbital Sciences Corp. moving deliveries and experiments to the International Space Station, replacing logistics services previously provided by the Space Shuttle Retired 2011. 2014 NASA SpaceX and Boeing awarded a total of 6.8 billion dollars in contract to develop, build and fly new commercial crew caps for astronaut transport.

Commercial cargo traffic began to fly to the station in 2012, and commercial flight visits are scheduled to start next year.

“We take what we learned from our experience with the International Space Station to reduce costs and increase access, and we apply it to cis-storage space,” says Bridenstine.

Steve Clarke, Associated Deputy Administrator for e xploration in NASA’s science department said the CLPS program is a “leaning forward” for the agency.

“We usually procure satellites and probes that are unique to each mission,” he said in an interview with Spaceflight Now. “This is completely different, where we actually buy a trip. We will provide the payloads. We will provide the science reports, some technical demonstration experiments and devices, and allow them to fly to the moon’s surface.”

“They provide the landlord , and they also provide the launch. They provide the whole package to give us the trip to the surface. “

Spaceflight Now members can read a transcript of our full interview with Steve Clarke. Join us today and support our coverage.

Clarke said that NASA will ask each company for a” payload user manual “that describes the design and opportunities in their moon concept, similar to the user manuals published by launch providers. The guides will be released in public so that researchers and engineers can match their patterns with the master’s mass, power and communication capabilities.

“Once we have chosen instruments and the criteria for this is almost ready to fly or almost – already to fly payloads, we will marry the instruments from a capacity viewpoint and mass with what landers can give, “Clarke said.

The first round of instruments that could fly on the Commercial lanes could be passive retroreflectors that require no current or electricity r data relay. The reflectors, similar to those provided by the Apollo astronauts and Soviet lunar rovers, are used for laser extending between the earth and the moon and can help navigate for future groups of people.

“Now that we have signed the contract, we can start issuing mission orders immediately,” says Clarke.

“One of the things we are looking at is laser retroreflectors,” he said. “We would like to fly retroreflectors because they do not need Current. They do not require communication. We would like to fly them on every landing mission forward, either in the US commercial or international, if they are willing to receive them. So I can predict that we issue a work order to get the landlords we heard from today fly these retroreflectors.

“The more landings we have and we have these retroreflectors aboard, we can start navigating future missions to land on the moon because they will be able to know where each of the other countries is. It’s almost like a geolocation type of networks we would like to build. “

Other instruments that fly to the moon on commercial landlords may include sensors to ignore the presence of water ice, a potential resource that can be used to deliver heavy fuel depots and provide drinking water and respiratory air to astronauts. A landing on versatility can be useful to astronomers because the environment is free from disturbances from radio emissions, such as man-made land transfers or natural solar emissions.

Earlier this year, NASA has terminated a lunar rover mission called Resource Prospector, which aimed to test technology for searching for water bound in moonlight at one of the moon’s poles. However, NASA determined the four instruments of the rover, such as spectrometers, regolith and ice drilling, and an experiment to heat lunar samples to quantify the water content was technically mature to fly on commercial landings.

NASA has called up instruments that may be ready to be launched on commercial lunar countries in the next year.

Artist’s Concept for Astrobotic’s Peregrine Lander. Credit: Astrobotic

Many CLPS competitors are supported by groups of subcontractors. In the Astrobotic case, Airbus Defense and Space, United Launch Alliance, Dynetics and Northrop Grumman support the development of Peregrine Lander, scheduled to be launched for the first time by the end of 2020. Moon Express is co-operating with Sierra Nevada Corp., Paragon Space Development Corp., NanoRacks and Odyssey Space Research, and has launch contract with Rocket Lab. Moon Express crowds could begin in 2020.

The Draper’s Moon Lander team includes General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems, the Japanese company Ispace and Spaceflight Industries, which will arrange the launch launch of the ship. Officials from Ispace said earlier that they planned to launch their first commercial lunar mission as a piggyback payload on SpaceX Falcon 9 Rockets – First a Orbiter 2020, followed by a Landlord in 2021.

Mast Space Systems, founded in 2004, has been gradually tested more advanced vertical start and vertical landing test beds at the test site in California’s Mojave Desert. The company says it may be possible to start a robotic lander at the end of 2021.

Orbit Beyond is a new name in the commercial market loan market, but the New Jersey-based company is leading a consortium of subcontractors who have designed and developed hardware for deep space missions. Team Indus, an Indian company, leads Orbit Beyond’s landing engineering and grade integration tasks will be handled by Honeybee Robotics, which built hardware for several NASA Mars landers.

“It has never been a more exciting time to be a commercial player on the cislun market,” Jeff Patton, chief engineer at Orbit Beyond and a system integration and engineer at the United Launch Alliance. “We believe to allow space exploration, the cost of delivering and driving payloads beyond the destinations of the country’s railways has to be reduced by an order of magnitude. Winning the NASA CLPS contract will enable OrbitBeyond to deliver its first landing mission as early as 2020. “

Lockheed Martin proposed a concept called McCandless Lunar Lander, based on the design of InSight Mars landlords who reached the Red Planet Monday. It is one of the largest lander concepts from the companies designated by NASA, which can transport hundreds of kilos of scientific instrumentation, deployable robbers and test-returning vehicles to the moon surface.

Information released by the other CLPS competitors suggests that their first lunar landing mission will be able to collect tens of kilos – and perhaps up to 100 kilos (220 pounds) – of scientific and technological demonstration equipment to the moon’s surface.

In some way, the CLPS program is a continuation of the suspended Google Lunar X Prize, which offered a $ 20 million prize for the first privately-financed spacecraft to land on the moon, send back video and images and move across the surface. Moon Express, ispace, Team Indus and Astrobotic all competed for the price of other companies and now have roles in NASA’s Lunar Lander Initiative.

Email the author. 19659003] Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @ StephenClark1 .

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