ispace Begins Final Assembly of Lunar Lander Flight Model Ahead of First Mission

Hakuto-R spacecraft (Credit: ispace)

TOKYO (ispace PR) –- Today, ispace announced that it began the assembly of the flight model for its lunar lander, which is to be used in the company’s first mission scheduled to launch in 2022. This is a major engineering milestone in the development of the lander and part of the final stretch toward our first mission.

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ispace Receives $17.9 Million in Bank Loans

HAKUTO-R lander on the moon. (Credit: ispace)

TOKYO (ispace PR) – ispace, inc. (ispace) announced that it signed loan agreements totaling of $17.9 million (USD)[1] with Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation, MUFG Bank, Ltd., Resona Bank, Limited, and Japan Finance Corporation. As of May 31, ispace’s total amount of bank loans reached $20 million (USD)[2] including the existing loan from Japan Finance and Dai-ichi Kangyo Credit Cooperative.

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Blue Origin Challenges NASA Human Lunar Landing System Award to SpaceX

Artist concept of the Blue Origin National Team crewed lander on the surface of the Moon. (Credits: Blue Origin)

The New York Times reports that Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin has challenged NASA’s decision to award a $2.9 billion contract to Elon Musk’s SpaceX to develop the Human Landing System designed to return astronauts to the moon as part of the space agency’s Artemis program.

Bob Smith, chief executive of Blue Origin, said NASA’s decision was based on flawed evaluations of the bids — misjudging advantages of Blue Origin’s proposal and downplaying technical challenges in SpaceX’s. He also said NASA had placed a bigger emphasis on bottom-line cost than it said it would.

“It’s really atypical for NASA to make these kinds of errors,” Mr. Smith said in an interview. “They’re generally quite good at acquisition, especially its flagship missions like returning America to the surface of the moon. We felt that these errors needed to be addressed and remedied.”

He added that in any case, the space agency should have stuck with a desire it had stated many times, of wanting to hand out awards to two companies.

Blue Origin’s National Team included Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper. Dynetics was the other unsuccessful bidder to submit a proposal.

SpaceX won the contract with a proposal that will use a version of the company’s Starship vehicle, which is currently undergoing testing in Boca Chica, Texas.

The Government Accountability Office will now review the award and render a decision.

Nelson Sails Through Senate Nomination Hearing, Backs NASA Human Landing System Award

Bill Nelson

Former senator Bill Nelson appearance before the Senate Commerce Committee this week turned into a mutual admiration society with legislators and the nominee for NASA administrator exchanging compliments and largely agreeing on the future direction of the space agency.

Barring some unexpected development, the Senate Commerce Committee should easily approve Nelson’s nomination and forward it to the full Senate, where it is likely to pass by a wide margin.

The only fireworks that were expected prior to the hearing involved NASA’s controversial decision last week to award a $2.9 billion contract to SpaceX to build the Human Landing System to take astronauts to the lunar surface as part of the Artemis program.

Some legislators have questions the decision to award a single contract instead of making multiple awards to maintain competition and give NASA redundancy. Losing bidders included Dynetics and Blue Origin’s National Team, which included Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper.

Nelson voiced support for the award and the goal of landing two astronauts at the lunar south pole by the end of 2024.

“I think you may be pleased that we’re gonna see that timetable try to be adhered to, but recognize that with some sobering reality that space is hard,” Nelson said.

The SpaceX contract covers an uncrewed and crewed lunar landings by the company’s Starship vehicle. NASA plans to open another competition for taking crews and cargo to the lunar surface as the agency builds a base on the moon.

Surprise! NASA Artemis Lunar Program Schedule Likely to Slip Again, 2024 Landing Unlikely

An astronaut descends the ladder to explore the lunar surface. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The latest in a series of updates from NASA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) says that despite making significant progress on the $86 billion Artemis program, the space agency’s schedule for returning astronauts to the moon in four years is likely to slip. [Full report]

“Nonetheless, the Agency faces significant challenges that we believe will make its current plan to launch Artemis I in 2021 and ultimately land astronauts on the Moon by the end of 2024 highly unlikely,” the update said.

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SpaceX Wins Single-Source Contract for Human Landing System

Artist concept of the SpaceX Starship on the surface of the Moon. (Credits: SpaceX)

The Washington Post is reporting that SpaceX has won a single-source contract to develop the Human Landing System (HLS) based on its Starship design that will take humans back to the moon.

SpaceX beat out Dynetics and the Blue Origin-led National team that included Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Draper. SpaceX’s $2.9 billion bid was well below that of its competitors, according to the Post.

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National Team Submits Artemis Human Lander Proposal to NASA

Kent, Wash. (Blue Origin PR) — The National Team submitted its Option A proposal this week to land the first woman and next man on the Moon in partnership with NASA. Blue Origin leads the Human Landing System (HLS) National Team, which includes Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Draper.

Together, these partners guided Apollo, established routine orbit cargo transfer, developed today’s only crewed lunar spaceship, and pioneered planetary precision landing with liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen vehicles. The proposed solution uses flight heritage and modularity to manage risk, move fast, and attain sustainable operations on the Moon.   

During the base period alone, the National Team is completing 25 technical demonstrations, making key progress toward NASA’s mission. Watch this video to learn more about the technical demonstrations and the approach to get America back to the Moon to stay.   

Japanese Lunar Exploration Company ispace Opens Office in Colorado

Kursten O’Neill, U.S. lander program director, and ispace technologies U.S. CEO Kyle Acierno. (Credit: ispace technologies)

DENVER (ispace PR) – Today, ispace, inc. (ispace) announced that it has selected Colorado as the location for its newest office. The company will open its new U.S.-based workplace in the Denver metropolitan area.

In making the decision, ispace worked with SelectUSA, a program in the U.S. Department of Commerce that provides assistance to foreign companies expanding into the U.S. market. After thorough consideration among a competitive list of locations around the United States, ispace selected Colorado as its place of operation, primarily due to the access to talent in the state, especially as the company plans to swiftly proceed with staffing a full engineering team, along with other positions.

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NASA Selects 31 Promising Space Technologies for Commercial Flight Tests

by Nicole Quenelle
NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program

NASA has selected 31 promising space technologies for testing aboard parabolic aircraft, high-altitude balloons, and suborbital rocket-powered systems. By exposing the innovations to many of the rigors and characteristics of spaceflight – without the expense of an orbital flight – NASA can help ensure these technologies work correctly when they are deployed on future missions.

“By supporting suborbital flight testing, our Flight Opportunities  program aims to help ensure that these innovations are well-positioned to address challenges and enable NASA to achieve its lunar ambitions, while also contributing to a growing and vibrant commercial space industry,” said Jim Reuter, associate administrator of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD). The Flight Opportunities program is part of STMD.

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William A. LaPlante, former MITRE Executive, to Lead Draper

William LaPlante (Credit: Draper Lab)

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (Draper Lab PR) — The Board of Directors of The Charles Stark Draper Laboratory, Inc., announced today that Dr. William LaPlante, a senior executive at The MITRE Corporation, has been selected as Draper’s next president and chief executive officer.

LaPlante will assume his position on October 7 when Francis Kearney, interim president and CEO, steps down and transitions his roles and responsibilities. Kearney, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant general, has served on Draper’s board of directors since 2015 and in his current role since 2020.

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National Team Completes System Requirements to Define Integrated Human Landing System Design

The National Team’s engineering mockup of the crew lander vehicle at NASA Johnson Space Center’s (JSC) iconic Building  9. (Credit: Blue Origin)

KENT, Wash. (Blue Origin PR) — The Human Landing System (HLS) National Team, led by Blue Origin with partners Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Draper, has completed its System Requirements Review (SRR). SRR is the first program “gated milestone,” which marks the successful baselining of the requirements for the mission, space vehicles, and ground segment. The design proceeded to the NASA Certification Baseline Review (CBR), followed by the lower-level element SRRs, and the preliminary design phase.

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How do we get There from Here? With Suborbital Flight Testing

Image shows Trona Pinnacles near California’s NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center during Jan. 31 Super Blue Blood Moon. Trona Pinnacles is an unusual geological feature of the state’s Desert National Conservation. (Credits: NASA / Lauren Hughes)

EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — Standing here on Earth, on a clear night we can look to the sky and see the destination for NASA’s Artemis program: the Moon. Seemingly close, but still quite far. Yet the space between us and that source of fascination is ripe with possibilities for helping mature the technologies we will need to get there, stay there, and venture beyond to Mars.

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Blue Origin-Led National Team  Delivers  Lunar Lander Engineering Mockup to  NASA

The National Team’s engineering mockup of the crew lander vehicle at NASA Johnson Space Center’s (JSC) iconic Building  9. (Credit: Blue Origin)

HOUSTON (Blue Origin PR) — Today, the Blue Origin-led Human Landing System (HLS) National Team – comprised of Blue Origin, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Draper – delivered an engineering mockup of a crew lander vehicle that could take American astronauts to the Moon. The lander is set up in the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility (SVMF), NASA Johnson Space Center’s (JSC) iconic Building 9.  

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Dynetics to Develop NASA’s Artemis Human Lunar Landing System

Artist concept of the Dynetics Human Landing System on the surface of the Moon. (Credits: Dynetics)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (Dynetics PR) — Dynetics, a wholly owned subsidiary of Leidos (NYSE: LDOS), has been awarded a contract under NASA’s Artemis program to design a Human Landing System (HLS) and compete to build a system to take the first woman and next man to the lunar surface by 2024.

Dynetics is one of three prime contractors selected.

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