NASA Selects Five U.S. Companies to Mature Artemis Lander Concepts

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

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected five U.S. companies to help the agency enable a steady pace of crewed trips to the lunar surface under the agency’s Artemis program. These companies will make advancements toward sustainable human landing system concepts, conduct risk-reduction activities, and provide feedback on NASA’s requirements to cultivate industry capabilities for crewed lunar landing missions.

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ASI and Qascom to Bring Italy and Galileo Navigation System to the Moon

Photo of Mare Crisium taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. (Credit: NASA)

ROME (ASI PR) — Finding the best route for lunar orbit and easy parking on the Moon is the goal of NEIL (Navigation Early Investigation on Lunar surface) GNSS receiver with Software Defined Radio (SDR) technology. The creation of NEIL, named in honor of Neil Armstrong, the first man to touch the lunar soil, is at the center of an agreement between the Italian Space Agency (ASI) and NASA linked to the CLPS 19-D mission (NASA missions with contributions commercial and private of an experimental nature) with which the American space agency has planned to land with a lander in the Mare Crisium basin in 2023. [Editor’s Note: This is Firefly Aerospace’s Blue Ghost lander mission.]

NEIL, subject of the contract signed between ASI and the company Qascom SRL, is the on-board payload that will be an integral part of the experiment called Lunar GNSS Receiver Experiment  (LuGRE), defined in the ASI/NASA agreement, which aims to develop an activity in a lunar and cislunar environment.

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South Korea to Boost Military and Civil Space Spending, Transfer Satellite and Launch Vehicle Technology to Private Sector

Test model of the Nuri (KSLV-II) booster. (Credit: Ministry of Science and ICT)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

South Korea plans to invest more than $14.25 billion over the next decade to improve its military and civil space capabilities. The Republic of Korea will transfer satellite and launch vehicle technology to the private sector to boost the nation’s domestic capabilities and improve its international competitiveness. The nation is also deepening defense and civil space cooperation with the United States.

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GAO Denies Human Landing System Protests by Blue Origin & Dynetics, Affirms SpaceX Award

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

WASHINGTON (GAO PR) — On Friday, July 30, 2021, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) denied protests filed by Blue Origin Federation, LLC, of South Kent, Washington, and Dynetics, Inc. – A Leidos Company, of Huntsville, Alabama.  The protesters challenged their non-selection for awards and the award of optional contract line item numbers to Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX), of Hawthorne, California, under Option A to Appendix H of Broad Agency Announcement (the announcement) No. NNH19ZCQ001K. Broad Agency Announcements typically provide for the acquisition of basic and applied research for new and creative research or development solutions to scientific and engineering problems. The rules for these procurements are not the same as those for standard competitive federal procurements, as agencies generally enjoy broader discretion in selecting the proposals most suitable to meeting their research and development needs when utilizing broad agency announcement procedures.  The announcement was issued by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), for a demonstration mission for a human landing system for lunar exploration.  

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Bezos Offers to Cover Up to $2 Billion in Costs if NASA Awards Human Landing System Contract to National Team

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

Editor’s Note: The Government Accountability Office is due to announce a ruling on Aug. 4 concerning the protests lodged by the Blue Origin-led National Team and Dynetics over NASA’s decision to award SpaceX a single-source contract for the Human Landing System that will take astronauts to the lunar surface. The letter below seems as much aimed at Congress, which could provide funds for a second contract, as it is to NASA.

Jeff Bezos Letter to NASA Administrator Bill Nelson

In an open letter to the NASA Administrator, Jeff Bezos offers to restore competition to the Human Landing System program by closing NASA’s near-term budgetary shortfall and producing a safe and sustainable lander that will return Americans to the surface of the Moon – this time to stay.

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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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NASA Awards Firefly Aerospace $93.3M to Deliver Suite of Payloads to the Moon in 2023

Blue Ghost lander on the moon. (Credit: Firefly Aerospace)

CEDAR PARK, Texas, February 4, 2021 (Firefly Aerospace PR) – Firefly Aerospace, Inc., a leading provider of economical and dependable launch vehicles, spacecraft, and in-space services, announced that NASA has awarded Firefly $93.3 million to deliver a suite of ten NASA-sponsored science and technology demonstration payloads to Mare Crisium in the Moon’s Crisium basin. Firefly’s ‘Blue Ghost’ lunar lander will deliver the payloads to the lunar surface in 2023 in fulfillment of Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) task order 19D, managed by NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.

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Gateway MoU and Artemis Accords – FAQs

Lunar Gateway (Credit: Thales Alenia Space/Briot)

PARIS (ESA PR) — ESA Director General Jan Wörner and NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to take Europe to the Moon.

The historic agreement will see ESA Member States contribute a number of essential elements to the first human outpost in lunar orbit, known as the Gateway.

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NASA Tipping Point Selections Include Cryogenic Fluid, Lunar Surface and Landing Tech

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

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — The following selections, organized by topic area, are based on NASA’s fifth competitive Tipping Point  solicitation and have an expected combined award value of more than $370 million. NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) will negotiate with the companies to issue milestone-based firm-fixed price contracts lasting for up to five years.

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Masten Space Working on System to Help Vehicles Survive Frigid Lunar Nights

China’s Yutu 2 rover drives off the Chang’e-4 lander. (Credit: CNSA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

MOJAVE, Calif. — One of the big challenges faced by lunar landers and rovers is the 14-day lunar night. Temperatures can drop to minus 280 Fahrenheit (minus 173 Celsius), causing vehicle components to literally freeze to death before the sun reappears.

Masten Space Systems is working on a solution to the problem of frigid lunar nights with financing from NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.

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GAO: NASA Lunar Plans Lack Cost Estimate, Risk Integration Challenges

Artist’s conception of astronaut in an advanced spacesuit working on the moon. (Credit; NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

In March, Vice President Mike Pence said the Trump Administration would use “any means necessary” to accomplish the goal of landing American astronauts on the moon by 2024.

Those means apparently did not include having NASA produce a cost estimate for the first landing mission known as Artemis III. And that has the Government Accountability Office (GAO) concerned.

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SpaceX to Launch Majority of 4,000 Starlink Satellites From Cape Canaveral

SpaceX Falcon 9 lifts off with a Dragon resupply ship on April 2, 2018. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The draft environmental assessment for SpaceX’s proposed expansion at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) also revealed that Elon Musk’s rocket company plans to most of more than 4,000 satellites of its planned Starlink constellation from Cape Canaveral.

That will guarantee a busy schedule for SpaceX’s Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at KSC and LC-40 at the adjoining Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS). LC-39A can accommodate Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy boosters while LC-40 is configured for the Falcon 9.

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Updated Global Launch Schedule for May

Mars InSight lander (Credit: NASA)

There are some interesting launches among the nine orbital flights currently scheduled for May. Highlights include:

  • NASA’s Mars InSight lander with two deep-space CubeSats (May 5);
  • SpaceX’s first flight of a Falcon 9 Block 5 variant (NET May 7);
  • Two Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On (GRACE Follow-On) satellites (May 19);
  • Orbital ATK’s Antares Cygnus ISS resupply mission (May 20);
  • China’s Chang’e-4 lunar relay satellite with two deep-space microsats (TBD); and,
  • Rocket Lab’s first Electron commercial flight (TBD).

There have been 40 orbital launches through April, with 38 successes, one failure and one partial failure.

The schedule below is subject to change. Please check with our friends at Spaceflight Now for updates.
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