As NASA begins to plan its mission to return astronauts to the moon as part of its Artemis programme, it has announced that it will award contracts of up to US$45million for commercial-led work to mature designs and conduct technology and engineering risk-reduction tasks for the human landing system that will be used to ferry astronauts from lunar orbit to the lunar surface and back.
Known as NextSTEP-2 Appendix N, NASA’s research and development procurement programme is designed to iron out safety- and cost-related issues associated with the regular crewed trips from its planned Gateway outpost in lunar orbit to the Moon’s surface and back. NASA hopes that the programme will be the first step in the development of a broader lunar marketplace by giving companies access to NASA experts.
‘We are priming US industry to become reliable service providers in the lunar marketplace,’ said Greg Chavers, assistant deputy for systems engineering and integration for human spaceflight at NASA Headquarters in Washington. ‘Riding on American ingenuity, Artemis astronauts will explore new areas of the Moon, where we will unlock mysteries of the solar system for the benefit of all.’
‘The approach for recurring Moon landing services is truly a collective effort between NASA and US industry,’ said Lisa Watson-Morgan, human landing system program manager at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. ‘This announcement is a chance for the pioneering private sector to claim their stake in the emerging lunar economy and make history with NASA.’
‘Landing humans on the Moon – and achieving a resilient presence there – is no small feat. Lunar landers are a major piece needed to set Artemis in motion toward that goal,’ said Kathy Lueders, NASA’s associate administrator for human exploration and operations. ‘We are another step closer to proving, once again, that NASA is a global leader in space exploration. Our presence at the Moon will inspire the next generation of diverse scientists, engineers, and explorers to take even greater leaps.’
NASA expects to award HLS Appendix N contracts before the end of the calendar year, and then to seek proposals for repeatable HLS services in 2022.