SpaceX, Lockheed Martin and Boeing are among the near-dozen companies NASA has picked to make prototypes of human landers for the space agency’s lunar exploration program.
The overarching goal of the program is to help put American astronauts on the moon by 2024 and set up sustainable missions by 2028.
The 11 companies from eight states will study or build prototypes during the next six months. Their work will focus on reducing the risk for the descent, transfer and refueling elements of a potential human landing system, NASA said in a May 16 release. The companies will receive $45.5 million, and they have to contribute a minimum of 20% of the total project cost.
The rest of the selected companies are Aerojet Rocketdyne, Blue Origin, Dynetics, Masten Space Systems, Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems, OrbitBeyond, Sierra Nevada Corp. and SSL.
“This new approach doesn’t prescribe a specific design or number of elements for the human landing system,” said Greg Chavers, human landing system formulation manager at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. “NASA needs the system to get our astronauts on the surface and return them home safely, and we’re leaving a lot of the specifics to our commercial partners.”