NASA this week awarded a NextSTEP-2 Appendix P Sustaining Lunar Development (SLD) contract to Kent-based Blue Origin, to send an astronaut to the Moon.
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, along with a cislunar transporter.
These vehicles are powered by a fuel called LOX-LH2.
“The high-specific impulse of LOX-LH2 provides a dramatic advantage for high-energy deep space missions,” Blue Origin said. “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, Blue Origin says it 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,” officials said. “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 say they “are excited to be on this journey with NASA.”