Jeff Bezos and Blue Origin have been circulating a seven-page white paper to NASA leadership and President Trump’s transition team about their interest in developing a lunar spacecraft with a lander that would touch down near a crater at the south pole where there is water and nearly continuous sunlight for solar energy. The memo urges the space agency to back an Amazon-like shipment service for the moon that would deliver gear for experiments, cargo and habitats by mid-2020, helping to enable “future human settlement” of the moon.
“It is time for America to return to the Moon — this time to stay,” Bezos said in response to emailed questions from The Post. “A permanently inhabited lunar settlement is a difficult and worthy objective. I sense a lot of people are excited about this.”
Blue Origin’s proposal, dated Jan. 4, doesn’t involve flying humans, but rather is focused on a series of cargo missions. Those could deliver the equipment necessary to help establish a human colony on the moon — unlike the Apollo missions, in which the astronauts left “flags and footprints” and then came home.
The United Launch Alliance, the joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin, has also been working on plans to create a transportation network to the area around the moon, known as cislunar space.
The Blue Moon spacecraft could carry as much as 10,000 pounds of material and fly atop several different rockets, including NASA’s Space Launch System, the United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V or its own New Glenn rocket, which is under development and expected to fly by the end of the decade, the company said.
“Once on the surface, the lander’s useful payload can be used to conduct science or deploy rovers,” the company said. “A robotic arm attached to the lander will deploy to examine the lunar surface with an array of instruments.”
The initial landing “is envisioned as the first in a series of increasingly capable missions,” including flying samples of lunar ice back to Earth for study.
According to the Blue Origin website, the BE-4 rocket engine will meet the 2019 deadline, mandated by Congress, to eliminate dependence on Russian-built engines.
Blue Origin’s BE-4 engine has been designed to power its New Glenn orbital rocket (named in honor of John Glenn): the first stage will use a total of seven BE-4 engines, while the second stage only requires one. The BE-4 can also launch United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Vulcan semi-reusable rocket. Based on the results of a crucial upcoming BE-4 engine test, ULA will decide whether it’s going to stick with the BE-4, or go with Aerojet Rocketdyne’s AR-1 engine (also made possible thanks to additive manufacturing, incidentally). At the same time, Blue Origin is also continuing the suborbital test flight program for its New Shepard reusable spaceship, which is powered by the hydrogen-fueled BE-3 engine. The first iteration was recently retired, and the company is getting the New Shepard 2.0 ready for its first trip to outer space at its West Texas launch test facility.
The Blue Engine 4 is a staged-combustion rocket engine under development by Blue Origin. The BE-4 is being developed with private funding, the engine is “being developed without any government assistance”. The engine has been designed to produce 2,400 kilonewtons (550,000 lbf) of thrust.
The engine is to be used on the Blue Origin large orbital launch vehicle New Glenn, a 7.0-meter (23 ft)-diameter two-stage orbital launch vehicle with an optional third stage and a reusable first stage. The first flight and orbital test is planned for no earlier than 2020.
SOURCE- Washington Post, wikipedia, blue origin
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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