NASA has selected 14 companies for more than 370 million contracts to advance technology for human missions to the moon and Mars. Most of the money will support flight demonstrations by SpaceX, the United Launch Alliance and other companies that could lead to refueling and propellant depots in space for reusable lunar landers and deep space transport vehicles.
The bulk of the “tipping point” awards announced Wednesday will allow NASA to pay companies to demonstrate technology in space, focusing on component development and ground testing following similar awards in previous years.
NASA’s Lockheed Martin, United Law Alliance, SpaceX and Eta Space, a small Florida-based company focused on cryogenic fluid management, have the potential to lead to the transfer of super-cold liquid hydrogen, methane and liquids. Oxygen propellants between vehicles in space.
Approximately 256 million of the 2,372 million at the NASA Tipping Point Awards will support cryogenic storage and refueling technology. The rest aims to develop power, precision landing, communications and other systems to support future missions to the lunar surface.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstein said Wednesday that NASA aims to promote the development of commercial refueling technology and propellant depots to support lunar research and ultimately human missions to Mars.
“We have the ambition to reach the moon with the next man and the first woman,” Brydenstein said, referring to the agency’s Artemis program. “We want to be sustainable until 2028.” For me, what that means is that we want our human landing systems to be reusable by 2028, which means we have to have a little ability to refuel by going. 2028. “
Finally, water ice inside the moon’s polar craters can be tapped to produce rocket fuel, air, water and other resources. In the near future, propellant depots and refueling technology will depend on the resources launched from the earth.
“A lot of companies and educational institutions … they’re figuring it out, and, and NASA is ready to be a customer in the future,” Brydenstein said.
The space agency said Wednesday it would begin talks with each of the tipping point awards aimed at issuing five-year milestone-based firm-fixed price contracts.
“This will depend on how many different architectures and capabilities bring innovation to the private sector,” Bridenstein told a meeting of the Lunar Surface Innovation Consortium. “That’s why I think NASA’s partners with private industry and academics are important, because they’re going to come up with solutions that are exceptionally unique and diverse, and ultimately they’re really going to drive the vehicle that ends it.” There is fuel. Depot, whether it is in orbit around the Earth, or in orbit around the Moon. “
Lehed Kahid Martin was selected for a 89 89.7 million contract in which liquid hydrogen was used to test more than a dozen cryogenic liquid management techniques, putting them into future space systems. Liquid hydrogen is the most challenging – and most efficient – cryogenic propellant to operate in a space because it must be maintained at temperatures below minus 423 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 253 degrees Celsius) to prevent it from converting to gas and boiling.
NASA said Lockheed Martin will collaborate on the project with the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center and Glenn Research Center.
The United Luncheon Alliance will demonstrate a smart propulsion cryogenic system, using liquid oxygen and hydrogen, at the upper Vulcan Center. The value of the ULA award is.286.2 million.
ULA’s next pay generation Vulcan Centaur rocket is set to make its inaugural test flight in the second half of 2021.
The company has long promoted in-space propellant depots, and proposed a more advanced upper stage that could carry out day-to-day missions in space. The Centaur Upper Stage, currently flying on ULA rockets, can handle missions lasting just over six hours.
NASA said the smart propulsion cryogenic system would “test precise tank pressure control, tank-to-tank transfer and multi-week propellant storage.” Engineers from Marshall, Glenn and NASA’s Kennedy Space Center will work with ULA on the exhibition.
AS $ .. An award given to SpaceX for 2 2 million will go towards a large-scale flight demonstration to transfer 10 metric tons of cryogenic propellant, especially liquid oxygen, between the tanks on a starship vehicle, ”NASA said.
SpaceX’s Starship is designed to carry more than 100 metric tons of cargo in low Earth orbit. With the docking of the refueling tanker in Earth orbit, SpaceX can replenish the starship with methane and liquid oxygen propellants for firing at more distant locations such as the Moon or Mars.
SpaceX will collaborate with Glenn and Marshall on the Starship Propellant Transfer demo, NASA said.
“When we think of companies like SpaceX and Starship, their architecture relies heavily on the ability to transfer cryogenics into low-Earth orbit in order to carry the system all the way to the moon,” Bridenstan said Wednesday. “Their system, in fact, does not seem to need fuel depots around the moon. Their system will require fuel depots in orbit around the Earth. “
SpaceX’s Starship is one of three lunar lander concepts selected by NASA in April to land on the lunar surface and carry astronauts. NASA also selected commercial teams led by Blue Origin and Dynamics to work on human landing systems.
A small company called Eta Space on Merritt Island, Florida, won a 27 million award from NASA for “small scale flight performance of a complete cryogenic oxygen fluid management system.”
“As proposed, the system will be the primary payload on the Rocket Lab Photon Satellite and collect cryogenic fluid management data in orbit for nine months.” Said NASA. “The small business will collaborate with NASA’s Huntville, Margol Space Flight Center, Alabama, NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland and NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.”
The Rocket Lab’s photon spacecraft platform is designed to launch an electron on top of a rocket. Rocket Lab announced last month that it had successfully launched the first photon spacecraft, designed to conduct Earth observation sensors, communications payloads and scientific experiments on the Earth’s orbit and beyond.
Using electron rockets and photon platforms, NASA has already signed an agreement with Rocket Lab to fly a small research mission called Capstone to orbit the moon next year.
NASA opted for Mustan space systems to accurately demonstrate landing, disaster avoidance, and a universal chemical heat and electrical power source connection, to save a two-week lunar night. Masten’s two contracts are 12.8 million.
.6 With an award of 41.6 million, intuitive machines ram more than a 2.5-pound (1 kilogram) payload on the lunar surface. will develop a lander on an inertial hop capable of carrying more than pay miles (2. kilometers), which will enable it to meet the exploration of characters. Large, traditional rovers.
The Houston-based Alpha Space Test and Research Alliance will receive approximately 22 22.1 million from NASA to develop space science and technology evaluation facilities to provide small experiments on the lunar surface. , A robotic arm for orbit and work on Earth.
Nokia will receive a NASA agreement to provide 14.1 million to support early-stage research of the first LTE / 4G communications network in space.1 NASA says it can support long-distance communications to the lunar surface.
Sierra Nevada Corp. Demonstrations using methane and concentrated solar energy radiation to extract oxygen from the lunar surface won 4 2.4 million to develop hardware, according to NASA.
NASA also selected astrobotic, pH matter, precision combustion and teledin energy systems for the award, focusing on testing wireless charging technology and renewable energy-producing fuel cells for potential use on the moon.
“I think there are two things that are critically important,” Bridensta said. “We need power systems that can last a long time on the lunar surface, and we need to stay on the lunar surface.”
Email the author.
Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: StephenClark1.