Blue Origin will lead a lunar lander development project. They will work with Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper. These partners have decades of experience supporting NASA with human space flight systems, launch vehicles, orbital logistics, deep-space missions, interplanetary navigation and planetary landings. This part of the US effort to return to the moon by 2024.
Our combined experience is uniquely positioned to meet NASA’s needs for the Artemis program. Each partner will bring their industry leading solutions to the following roles:
Blue Origin, as prime contractor, leads program management, systems engineering, safety and mission assurance, and mission engineering while providing the Descent Element that is based on the multi-year development of the Blue Moon lunar lander and its BE-7 engine.
Lockheed Martin develops the reusable Ascent Element vehicle and leads crewed flight operations and training.
Northrop Grumman provides the Transfer Element vehicle that brings the landing system down towards the Moon.
Draper leads descent guidance and provides flight avionics.
As of April 2017, Bezos is selling approximately US$1 billion in Amazon stock each year to privately finance Blue Origin.
Large Lunar Landing Payload Capability
Blue Moon can land multiple metric tons of payload on the lunar surface.
The top deck and lower bays easily accommodate a wide variety of payloads, including large payloads and ESPA-class payloads with standard ring port interfaces. There are lower mounting locations for payloads, useful for closer access to the lunar surface and off-loading.
BE-7 Lunar Laner Engine
The BE-7 engine is being designed and built for use on a lunar lander. Its first ignition tests are expected by mid-2019. The BE-7 is designed to produce 40 kN (10,000 lbf) of thrust and have a deep throttle range, making it less powerful than the other engines Blue Origin has in development/production, but this low thrust is advantageous for its intended purpose as a Lunar vehicle descent stage main propulsion system as it offers greater control for soft landings.
The engine uses hydrogen and oxygen propellants in a dual-expander combustion cycle, similar to the more typical expander cycle used by the RL-10 and others, which in theory offers better performance and allows each pump to run at independent flow rates. Blue Origin plans to use additive manufacturing technology to produce the combustion chamber of the engine, which would allow them to more cheaply construct the complex cooling channels required to keep the engine from melting and to produce the hot gasses that will power the pumps.
Blue Origin was started in 2000.
They were originally focused on suborbital spaceflight. They are targeting their first passenger-carrying spaceflight planned for 2019. On nearly every one of the test flights since 2015, the uncrewed vehicle has reached a test altitude of more than 100 km (330,000 ft) and achieved a top speed of more than Mach 3 (3,675 km/h; 2,284 mph), reaching space above the Kármán line, with both the space capsule and its rocket booster successfully soft landing.
Blue Origin moved into the orbital spaceflight technology business in 2014, initially as a rocket engine supplier for others via a contractual agreement to build a new large rocket engine, the BE-4, for major US launch system operator United Launch Alliance (ULA). By 2015, Blue Origin had announced plans to also manufacture and fly its own orbital launch vehicle from the Florida Space Coast, known as the New Glenn. BE-4 had been expected to complete engine qualification testing by late 2018, but the test program continued into 2019.
Major achievements of SpaceX include:
The first privately funded, liquid-fueled rocket (Falcon 1) to reach orbit (28 September 2008)
The first privately funded company to successfully launch (by Falcon 9), orbit and recover a spacecraft (Dragon) (9 December 2010)
The first private company to send a spacecraft (Dragon) to the International Space Station (25 May 2012)
The first private company to send a satellite into geosynchronous orbit (SES-8, 3 December 2013)
The first private company to send a probe beyond Earth orbit (Deep Space Climate Observatory, 11 February 2015)
The first landing of a first stage orbital capable rocket (Falcon 9, Flight 20) (22 December 2015 1:39 UTC)
The first water landing of a first stage orbital capable rocket (Falcon 9) (8 April 2016 20:53 UTC)
Since June 2010, rockets from the Falcon 9 family have been launched 77 times, with 75 full mission successes, one partial failure and one total loss of spacecraft. In addition, one rocket and its payload were destroyed on the launch pad in the fueling process before a static fire test.
Designed and operated by private manufacturer SpaceX, the Falcon 9 rocket family includes the retired versions Falcon 9 v1.0, v1.1, and v1.2 “Full Thrust”, along with the currently active Block 5 evolution. Falcon Heavy is a heavy-lift derivative of Falcon 9, combining a strengthened central core with two Falcon 9 first stages as side boosters.
Falcon family core boosters have successfully landed 44 times in 52 attempts. A total of 22 boosters have flown a second mission, including two pairs as Falcon Heavy side-boosters, and four boosters have gone on to fly a third mission.
Falcon 9’s typical missions include cargo delivery to the International Space Station (ISS) with the Dragon capsule, launch of communications satellites and Earth observation satellites to geostationary transfer orbits (GTO), and low-Earth orbits (LEO), some of them at polar inclinations.
In 2016, SpaceX had 30% global market share for newly awarded commercial launch contracts, in 2017 the market share reached 45%, the estimate for 2018 is about 65% as of July 2018.
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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