NASA Selects Partners to Deliver Cargo to the Moon

#1
Yazata Offline
These aren't contracts. They are NASA's approval for these companies to bid on various sorts of cargo flights to the Moon. NASA anticipates dozens of these flights with varying payloads and purposes to support their Artemis program returning humans to the Moon.

https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/new-c...is-program

The five companies selected include two very small "new space" startups:

Tyvak Nanosatellite Systems in Irvine California. I believe that this company has so far concentrated on little cubesats, but they apparently plan a lunar lander similar in size to that little Israeli lander. From the looks of it this is a little thing only able to carry small scientific payloads.


[Image: tyvak_clps_lunar_lander.jpeg]

[Image: tyvak_clps_lunar_lander.jpeg]



Ceres Robotics in Palo Alto California. This company has so far concentrated on small robotic rovers designed to crawl around the Moon doing scientific work like doing chemical analyses and looking for water ice. I'm not sure if they plan their own lander to deliver it, or whether they will hitch a ride on another company's lander. But given the nature of this NASA announcement, which is about delivering stuff to the Moon, they may indeed be planning a lander.


[Image: ceres_0.jpg]

[Image: ceres_0.jpg]



The next two companies aren't such small and speculative long-shots, they are larger established companies planning bigger and more capable hardware. But their proposals still look kind of modest, sort of like a replay of the 1960's Apollo-era vision.

One is Sierra Nevada Corporation of Louisville Colorado. They have a lander that from the looks of it, looks like a repurposed rocket upper stage. But unclear how much cargo it can carry.


[Image: snc_stp_lunar_lander_clps_013a.jpg]

[Image: snc_stp_lunar_lander_clps_013a.jpg]



The other is Blue Origin of Kent Washington. This one is offering NASA Jeff Bezos' Blue Moon lander. It looks to have similar capability to the Apollo lander and can apparently carry a mass similar to the Apollo ascent module. That translates to a decent one-way cargo capacity.


[Image: blueorigin_bluemoon.jpg]

[Image: blueorigin_bluemoon.jpg]



And finally one in an entirely different 21st century class. NASA has approved SpaceX to bid on NASA Lunar supply flights offering its Starship (BFR) vehicle. This thing promises to be reusable and be able to deliver something like 100 tons (per flight!) to the Moon. That could mean several large long-range pressurized rovers like the ones Toyota and JAXA are working on, large Moon-base building materials, power plants and big heavy things that will be necessary to a real permanent Moon settlement. It's riskier than the preceeding two and it's more questionable whether this one will ever really happen. But if it does, NASA obviously wants to be up at the front of the customer line.


[Image: spacex_1.jpg]

[Image: spacex_1.jpg]

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#2
C C Offline
(Nov 20, 2019 04:08 AM)Yazata Wrote: . . . And finally one in an entirely different 21st century class. NASA has approved SpaceX to bid on NASA Lunar supply flights offering its Starship (BFR) vehicle. This thing promises to be reusable and be able to deliver something like 100 tons (per flight!) to the Moon. That could mean several large long-range pressurized rovers like the ones Toyota and JAXA are working on, large Moon-base building materials, power plants and things like that necessary to a real permanent Moon settlement. It's riskier than the preceeding two and it's more questionable whether this one will ever really happen. But if it does, NASA obviously wants to be up at the front of the customer line.

https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files...acex_1.jpg

Heh. A crane having to lower loads from above? Wonder what happened to the door conveniently yet perversely placed at the bottom of those retro spaceships, in sci-fi art and maybe some movies/TV, located where the fuel tank and engines should be? I guess a few of them did have a long, external ladder for the spacemen to climb down from, as an alternative to that engineering puzzle/marvel.
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#3
Yazata Offline
The engineers are saying that Tyvak is well known and a big player in the cubesat space. Lockheed subcontracts with them for microsatellites for government customers and has provided them with lots of venture funding. They have won awards from NASA and the DoD. One of their current NASA contracts is for a 12U cubesat to be sent into Lunar orbit. At the press conference, Tyvak wouldn't say when they plan to first land their little lander on the Moon.

Ceres has been a rover company and was founded by a former JPL scientist in 2017. No indication at this point that they are building a lander. Ceres is targeting having their rovers on the Moon by 2023. Not clear at all who will deliver them to the Moon's surface.

Both of these companies don't look like Lunar supply service companies to me. They look more like they will be involved in scouting the Lunar surface and/or delivering scientific instruments prior to the first manned landings. Looking for scientifically interesting landing sites or something.

SNC says that they have several landers under development, ranging from a small one like Tyvak's to a big one with a cargo capacity similar to Blue Moon. SNC wants to land on the Moon in 2022.

Blue Origin basically clammed up at the press conference, maintaining their signature secrecy. They wouldn't say whether they plan to launch their Blue Moon lander with their New Glenn rocket which is under (very secretive) development. And they refused to say when they anticipate landing Blue Moon on the Moon. Their reason for not disclosing anything was "the competitive environment".

And typically, Gwynne Shotwell was the exact opposite, her airy, expansive self. (She's supposed to be the grownup in the SpaceX room, but Elon's rubbing off on her.) She says that SX plans to have Starship on the Moon in 2022 and that it will have made many trips before NASA lands the first 21st century humans there with Artemis in 2024. (Hence the snarky joke about NASA returning humans to the Moon and landing them in the parking lot of the SpaceX visitor's center and shopping mall.)
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