NASA Launches Effort to Develop Human Lunar Landing System

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Last week, NASA had an industry day for its recently released Human Landing System Broad Agency Announcement (BAA). The space agency is seeking private participation in the development of a landing system capable of delivering astronauts to the surface of the moon by 2028.

The following are excerpts from the PowerPoint presentation give by NASA officials last week that outlined the agency’s plans. The complete slides are here.

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The main goal is to use the moon to test and perfect technologies for use in sending astronauts to Mars in the 2030’s.

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The effort will proceed on parallel tracks, with a series of surface missions and the establishment of a human-tended Lunar Gateway in orbit.

The Gateway is designed to:

  • Enable human crewed missions, including surface missions
  • Meet scientific requirements for lunar discovery and exploration
  • Prove technologies that enable Lunar missions and feed forward to Mars and other deep space destinations.
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The Gateway will be in a Near-Rectilinear Halo Orbit instead of a circular one.

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The development of landers will proceed along parallel paths leading to one capable of carrying astronauts to the surface.

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NASA’s plans for human landing system would double the number of people on the surface from the two who landed during the Apollo program. Sorties on the moon would last for seven days.

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NASA has studied several landing vehicle options.

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The following slides show the buildup of a Notional Human Landing System Reference Architecture

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The program foresees the use of NASA’s Space Launch System as well as commercial boosters.

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By 2028, the United States would land up to four astronauts on the lunar surface. The landing would occur a year prior to the 60th anniversary of the first human landing on the moon by Apollo 11 in July 1969.

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The notional acquistion schedule.

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NASA is looking to develop systems capable of landing at least 9 metric tons on the surface from low lunar orbit (LLO). At minimum, the transfer vehicle would be capable of evolving to be fully reusable.

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The NASA Human Landing System is kicking off with the solicitation of Phase A proposals for firm fixed price contracts for trade studies, long-lead items, and risk reduction prototypes.

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NASA will spend $30 to $40 million in FY 2019 for the six month studies. The solicitation is open to companies, universities and non-profit organizations.

Foreign institutions, NASA civil servants, Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) employees, national laboratories, and federally funded research and development centers (FFRDCs) are not allowed to submit proposals as prime contractors. They may, however, participate as team members.

Proposers’s corporate contribution must total 20% of the overall effort. The figure is reduced to 10% for small businesses.

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The schedule is tight with proposals due on March 25 and contract awards projected for July.

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After the studies are completed, NASA will make up to two awards for design, development test and evaluation (DDT&E) and planned 2024 flight demonstrations.