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Blue Origin-led team bids for NASA manned lunar lander contract

Capitalism in space: Though few details have been released, Blue Origin has teamed up with Boeing and Lockheed Martin to bid for a NASA contract to build a second manned lunar lander, after SpaceX’s Starship.

Blue Origin revealed its team’s submission to that second NASA program in a brief statement posted on its website on Tuesday, saying “in partnership with NASA, this team will achieve sustained presence on the Moon.”

The deadline for proposals was Tuesday. NASA is expected to make an award decision in June 2023.

Blue Origin’s team also includes spacecraft software firm Draper, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based Astrobotic and Honeybee Robotics, a manufacturer of military and civil robotic systems that was acquired by Blue Origin in January.

It will be interesting to see if this proposed lander is significantly different than the previous proposal, which NASA considered overpriced and not as capable as Starship.

Conscious Choice cover

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From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.


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  • David Ross

    Over at Teslarati, there’s a concern that the SuperHeavy (which is needed to push that Starship into orbit) is in a long loop of staticfire tests and going back to the hangar for fixes. If SuperHeavy and Starship are delayed, then other companies have a case.

  • Ray Van Dune

    I recall reading that Starship by itself was theoretically capable of achieving orbit, albeit with a negligible payload and/or perhaps without even sufficient propellant to de-orbit. Might it be possible to put a Starship into LEO by itself, and use Dragons to embark work crews to finish the job of configuring it for HLS duty?

    Remember, no TPS or fins are required for HLS work. On the downside, HLS requires special landing/takeoff thrusters, and landing gear.

    Refueling would of course be required either way.

  • sippin_bourbon

    I am hoping that instead of one giant inflatable blue ball.. it has two.

    This was the bid that congress funded just for Blue Origin, if I recall.

    Are there others taking a shot at it too?

    I would love to see Dynetics come in with a stronger case, and win.

  • Edward

    David Ross,
    You wrote: “If SuperHeavy and Starship are delayed, then other companies have a case.

    A case for what argument?

    NASA already wanted a second design from a second company (or team of companies) in order to be more certain that a lander would be available when NASA is ready to land man (more specifically the first woman and the first person of color) on the Moon. They did this two-contract process with the CRS contracts and with the manned version, which was a good thing, because if they had depended upon Boeing, we would still be relying on Russia, trampolines, and broomsticks for getting our astronauts to ISS. As it is, NASA relied upon Boeing for the SLS, and that ran seven years late.

    NASA and SpaceX are already sold on the idea that a second vendor should be selected for the Human Landing System. It was Congress that skimped on the budget before NASA was to select the winners of the first round, and the budget was less than the bids of either of the other two competitors. It was only after the sole contract was awarded that Congress learned the error of their ways, that developing a manned lunar lander is not free. Congress has already promised additional funding for a second lander design.

  • Edward

    David Ross wrote: “Over at Teslarati, there’s a concern that the SuperHeavy (which is needed to push that Starship into orbit) is in a long loop of staticfire tests and going back to the hangar for fixes.

    It is hardly surprising that SpaceX is having trouble with Super Heavy. Rather than having a blast deflector to direct the exhaust and acoustic portion of the exhaust away from the rocket, high power sound waves bounce off the flat concrete base and echo right back to the engines and the bottom dome of the propellant tank. The water deluge absorbs some of the heat as it vaporizes, but it also dampens the energy of the echo. Does it dampen it enough?

    Sometimes during a launch or static fire, you can see the acoustic waves waft through the clouds of steam. It is impressive how much power is in those pressure waves. Yet SpaceX chose to not direct them away but to allow them to impinge on the rocket’s bottom. Ouch.

    Payloads undergo an acoustic test to assure that they will survive the noise inside the rocket fairing. The vibration of the rocket turns the fairing into a huge drumhead or speaker diaphragm, and the wind of the air rushing past adds higher frequency noise. But that is nothing compared to the roar of the engines, and SpaceX chose not to deflect that roar away from the rocket.

    I don’t know what they are thinking, because landings on and launches from other worlds won’t have such strong thrust and acoustics, even though they will also be on flat ground or landing pads. The thrust and acoustics will be even lower than the Starship landings here on Earth, and as we saw, that is survivable. I see no reason for SpaceX to not deflect the acoustics from the Super Heavy launches. It only adds trouble, which they seem to be taking time to overcome. We live in a realistic world, and SpaceX has previously pushed the envelope of that reality, showing us that the limits extend further than we had imagined. Maybe this is beyond the limit, or maybe this will show us another edge to the limit.

    Landings and launches from other worlds will not be as difficult, as the gravity is less. This is why Blue Origin and the other bidder, Dynetics (are there others?), offer smaller vehicles. Not as much propellant is needed to get off the Moon as is needed to get off the Earth. The Apollo lunar lander had an ascent vehicle that weighed about as much as a Gemini capsule, but the ascent vehicle could launch itself from the lunar surface to lunar orbit, whereas Gemini needed a large Titan II rocket to get from the Earth’s surface to low Earth orbit.

  • Edward: For some reason I cannot locate, your comment to David Ross went into moderation. No need to post it twice. I have approved one and deleted the other.

  • Edward

    Thank you, Robert. It has been so long since I have had to wait for a reply to post that I forgot it happens, so I thought I had accidentally deleted instead of hitting the “Post Comment” button. Sorry for the confusion and the extra work.

  • Chris

    Are/were there test devices to generate acoustic scenarios to prove designs or was this done using scale models 0r even analysis?



  • Edward

    As with the thermal vacuum test, the vibration test, and range test (electromagnetic interference test in an anechoic chamber) there is the acoustic test (in an echo chamber). The whole spacecraft is tested. It is placed in a large room with thick concrete walls, floor, and ceiling, and large horns blast loud sounds into the room, simulating the acoustics that will be inside the launch vehicle’s fairing, except a little louder as a safety margin.

    Testing the real thing is superior to computer modeling, and these tests can be used to improve the models.

    Testing scaled physical models has drawbacks. However, for aircraft testing of airflows, the scientists and engineers have discovered a concept called the Reynolds number that helps make airflows behave similarly on the small models, which they test in many wind tunnels, as they do on the full scale hardware.

    By the way, I once ran a vibration test in which we broke the spacecraft. It was based upon a standard chassis, but one area of the payload was too heavy for the standard design. The design engineers had noted this and drew up a one-time change order to beef up one wall on the spacecraft, but this change order did not get incorporated when the chassis was built. After we discovered this failure during our shake test, the wall was repaired and strengthened, and performed properly after that. So, yes, we risk breaking the spacecraft when we test it rather than a model, but in the rare times that one breaks, it is still here on Earth, where we can fix it.

  • Chris

    Edward – Thank you

    I am familiar with many EMI/EMC runs, thermal and vibration runs on electronic equipment (I had a company compliance lab in my responsibilities). The scale was much smaller – standard chassis and racks.
    I had seen what I had thought were large tables (Pittsburgh Westinghouse 3-axis lab). We had acoustic tests but they were to see how loud the equipment -ie hospital installation. We never had anything to test the acoustic effects and damage.

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