Lockheed Martin revealed a giant crewed lunar lander concept and showed how the reusable lander aligns with NASA’s lunar Gateway and future Mars missions. A separate lunar lander is needed because the Orion capsule that would sit on an SLS (Space Launch System) rocket cannot land on the moon. Lockheed wants tens of billions to possibly get the SLS and Orion flying and then tens of billions for $150 billion for the lunar gateway in orbit around the moon and then more billions for lunar lander.
The lander would accommodate a crew of four and 2,000 lbs. of cargo payload on the surface for up to two weeks before returning to the Gateway without refueling on the surface.
It would have dry weight of about 24 tons and a fueled weight of 60+ tons.
The manned Orion capsule is currently tracking to about $20 billion in cost. This Lockheed proposed lunar lander is much bigger than Orion and has new liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen propulsion. It looks to me like it would easily rack up $40 billion in cost based on the Lockheed cost track record.
It will use liquid oxygen and hydrogen. Liquid LOX/LH2 provides the performance required for a single stage lunar lander operating from the Gateway orbit, where the round trip ∆V is in excess of 5000 m/s. Sustainability requires full reusability, and while it is possible to have a fully reusable two-stage system, the additional cost and complexity of a two-stage system is significant. It is conceivable that a single stage LOX/methane lander could be developed.
It is conceivable that a single stage LOX/methane lander could be developed, but the mass fraction required implies very lightweight systems, which further imply an increase in technology, cost/risk, and potentially a loss of reliability with respect to margins, factors of safety and/or redundancy.
SpaceX would have to add three things.
1. A lunar transit vehicle (for TLI) built around the Dragon. Trans-lunar injection is the trip from high earth orbit to cis-lunar space (moon orbit).
2. Falcon Heavy needs a larger second stage to bring all that equipment from LEO to a higher earth orbit.
3. Large external fuel trunk for Dragon.
A SpaceX BFR and BFS could easily handle lunar landing missions.
Blue Origin 2023 moon landing mission?
It seems that Jeff Bezos and Blue Origin want to (mostly?) self-fund a future Blue Moon mission to the lunar surface – Blue Origin’s lunar lander capable of bringing several metric tons of cargo to the Moon. Bezos has also expressed ambitions to orchestrate a moon landing by 2023 and to eventually establish a lunar colony.
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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