Blue Origin announces a blue-chip team to return humans to the Moon

Katie Ramirez
October 23, 2019

"Northrop Grumman's commitment to put Americans back on the moon dates back over 50 years ago with the delivery of the first lunar lander for the historic Apollo Program", said Blake Larson, corporate vice president and president of Innovation Systems, Northrop Grumman.

At the International Astronautical Congress in Washington, D.C. today, Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos announced a new "national team" that will join forces in order to help return humans to the Moon via NASA's Artemis program.

Blue Origin will be leading the entire project while Lockheed Martin will be training and leading the flight controllers who will be managing the lander in space. Blue Origin will lead the lunar lander team. "Team is the only way to get back to the Moon fast and this time we are going back to stay".

Delegating technologies: Blue Origin, the group's primary contractor, will build the lander, Blue Moon. Draper will provide guidance and navigation systems, which it did for the Apollo program as well.

Blue Origin would serve as the prime contractor for the lander project, with its Blue Moon lander serving as the heart of the system.

Blue Origin, a relatively new entrant in the human spaceflight sector, will lead the team, which is composed of companies with decades of experience building hardware for Nasa. Lockheed built NASA's Orion capsule, which is an alternative vehicle that still might be used in lunar missions. Northrop Grumman will provide the Transfer Element vehicle that will bring the landing system down towards the moon's surface.

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That will set the stage for a third flight as early as 2024 to carry astronauts to a small space station known as Gateway that will have been robotically assembled in a high lunar orbit.

Whichever company is ready first will be tapped for the first lunar landing.

Blue Origin will provide the descent element, based on its Blue Moon lunar lander and BE-7 engine, for the human landing system. The company already has a heavy role in returning astronauts to the moon. NASA has asked for actual lander proposals by November 1 and plans to award two contracts early next year.

Once Blue Moon arrives at its destination, it uses machine learning algorithms to land with precision on the lunar surface.

"We could not ask for better partners", Bezos said.

Moreover, Bezos has built a partnership between dynamic new companies that are largely privately funded, such as Blue Origin, and aerospace blue-blood firms, such as Lockheed Martin. Agency officials have not said how much it might cost to move that up by four years, promising an accounting in February when the 2021 federal budget request is unveiled.

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