Friday, June 9, 2023

NASA Selects Blue Origin for Astronaut Mission to the Moon

NASA has awarded a NextSTEP-2 Appendix P Sustaining Lunar Development contract to Blue Origin. Blue Origin’s National Team partners include Lockheed Martin, Draper, Boeing, Astrobotic, and Honeybee Robotics.  

Under this contract, Blue Origin and its National Team partners will develop and fly both a lunar lander that can make a precision landing anywhere on the Moon’s surface and a cislunar transporter. These vehicles are powered by LOX-LH2. The high-specific impulse of LOX-LH2 provides a dramatic advantage for high-energy deep space missions. Nevertheless, lower performing but more easily storable propellants (such as hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide as used on the Apollo lunar landers) have been favored for these missions because of the problematic boil-off of LOX-LH2 during their long mission timelines. Through this contract, we will move the state of the art forward by making high-performance LOX-LH2 a storable propellant combination.

Under SLD, we will develop and fly solar-powered 20-degree Kelvin cryocoolers and the other technologies required to prevent LOX-LH2 boil-off. Future missions beyond the Moon, and enabling capabilities such as high-performance nuclear thermal propulsion, will benefit greatly from storable LH2. Blue Origin’s architecture also prepares for that future day when lunar ice can be used to manufacture LOX and LH2 propellants on the Moon. 

Blue Origin and its partners are already at work and are excited to be on this journey with NASA. 

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