NASA's Next Moonshot Has 2 Littleton Aerospace Companies On The Short List

AFP | NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine

AFP | NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration announced Thursday that Draper and eight other U.S. companies, ranging from tiny startups to defense giant Lockheed Martin, will compete for $2.6 billion in NASA contracts.

NASA's going back to the moon.

"Potentially, this spacecraft could be the first thing to show that we can produce water fuel from the moon and potentially turn the moon into a refueling station for spacecraft to go deeper and deeper into space", said John Thornton, CEO of Astrobotic.

America's next moon landing will be made by private companies, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine announced Thursday.

Lockheed's plans for deliveries to the moon is similar to the technology and design recently used for the InSight mission to Mars.

"The U.S. return to the moon, and we will make it sooner than you think!" - the report says.

Thomas Zurbuchen, the associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, said the moon is full of secrets and full of resources that can help supply human missions on the lunar surface, such as water.

The Trump administration also directed NASA to seek and encourage additional private sector participation.

Those companies are eligible for competing for NASA's contracts valued at $2.6 billion, according to the US-based space agency.

Each consortium will file bids with NASA, which will issue contracts based on price, time to launch, and technical feasibility. No money was awarded Thursday. Draper will manage the team and oversee the payload, flight computer, and navigation system for their lander, to be called Artemis-7.

Talking about Musk's past behaviour, Bridenstine said he had spoken with Musk.

The CLPS announcement comes as NASA conducts safety reviews of two of its major private partners, SpaceX and Boeing.

This new partnership is loosely modeled after NASA's successful commercial cargo deliveries to the International Space Station, as well as the still-unproven commercial crew effort.

Before NASA returns humans to the moon, however, the space agency plans to send an array of scientific payloads - science experiments, in other words - to the lunar surface.

"Lunar payloads could fly on these contracted missions as early as 2019", NASA said in an earlier news release.

Astrobiotic Technology Inc. of Pittsburgh; Deep Space Systems of Littleton, Colorado; Draper of Cambridge, Massachusetts; Firefly Aerospace Inc. of Cedar Park, Texas; Intuitive Machines of Houston; Lockheed Martin of Littleton; Masten Space Systems Inc. of Mojave, California; Moon Express of Cape Canaveral, Florida and Orbit Beyond of Edison, New Jersey.

"Beginning with missions beyond low-Earth orbit, the United States will lead the return of humans to the Moon for long-term exploration and utilization, followed by human missions to Mars and other destinations".

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