(ORDO NEWS) — NASA has turned to the spirit of healthy competition to improve its chances of success on future lunar missions.
The agency recently outlined plans for a commercially developed SpaceX lander satellite. The announcement also calls for private space companies to develop a second lander that will take astronauts from lunar orbit to the surface, a key element of the future transportation network for both crew and cargo.
The landers, along with the Space Launch System, will be a key part of NASA’s Artemis program, which aims to establish a permanent U.S. crew presence on the Moon.
Before choosing SpaceX to develop a lunar lander for the missions, NASA first considered concepts from a number of firms before narrowing the number of possibilities down to three in 2020, with the rest coming from Blue Origin and Dynetics.
NASA settled on SpaceX last April, awarding the company a $2.9 billion contract. The agreement includes the development and demonstration of a lunar lander capable of carrying two astronauts and delivering them from orbit to the surface.
Blue Origin effectively sued the decision, which is one of the factors contributing to the delays in the program as the first crewed mission had to be pushed back to April 2025.
The new announcement opens the door for other commercial US companies to develop in parallel. NASA is finalizing the requirements for a second lander to not only create competition, but also provide redundancy and ensure it can carry astronauts and scientific research equipment to the lunar surface.
While crewed missions won’t begin until 2025, NASA is gearing up for uncrewed missions by demonstrating the capabilities of its space launch system and Orion capsule.
Last week they were taken out of the assembly shop for the first time to the launch pad, where engineers will hold a dress rehearsal with full tanks ahead of the launch of the Artemis 1 mission scheduled for May this year:
“Under the leadership of Artemis, NASA will conduct a series of groundbreaking missions to and around the Moon to prepare for humanity’s next giant leap: crewed missions to Mars,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.
“Competition is critical to our success on the lunar surface and beyond, ensuring we have the ability to fly a range of missions over the next decade.”
Contact us: [email protected]