The contracts are expected to help the agency enable a steady pace of crewed trips to the lunar surface


Artist concept of Artemis astronaut stepping onto the Moon. (Credit: NASA)

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has chosen five US companies to support its crewed trips to the lunar surface under the Artemis programme.

The Artemis programme involves the deployment of innovative technologies to extend the exploration of the lunar surface.

The selected companies will advance sustainable human landing system concepts, conduct risk-reduction activities, and deliver feedback on NASA’s requirements to advance Artemis lander concepts.

With the advancements, they are expected to help the agency enable a steady pace of crewed trips to the lunar surface.

The contracts, which have a combined value of $146m, will be executed over a period of 15 months.

The US space agency has awarded the contracts to Blue Origin Federation of Kent, Washington; Dynetics (a Leidos company) of Huntsville, Alabama; Lockheed Martin of Littleton, Colorado; Northrop Grumman of Dulles, Virginia; and SpaceX of Hawthorne, California.

Human landing system program manager at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, Lisa Watson-Morgan said: “Collaboration with our partners is critical to achieving NASA’s long-term Artemis lunar exploration goals.

“By partnering with innovative U.S. companies, we will establish a robust lunar economy while exploring new areas of the Moon for generations to come.”

The five selected companies will be responsible for the development of lander design concepts and evaluation of their performance, design, construction standards, mission assurance requirements, interfaces, safety, crew health accommodations, and medical capabilities.

The companies will also engage in conducting critical component tests and advancing the maturity of key technologies that will help mitigate lunar lander risks.

Besides, they will support the requirements for a future NASA’s solicitation to offer regular astronaut transportation from lunar orbit to the surface of the Moon.

NASA’s Artemis missions will involve landing the first woman and first person of colour on the lunar surface.

NASA Washington headquarters’ human exploration and operations associate administrator Kathy Lueders said: “Establishing a long-term human presence on the Moon through recurring services using lunar landers is a major Artemis goal.

“This critical step lays the foundation for U.S. leadership in learning more about the Moon and for learning how to live and work in deep space for future missions farther into the solar system.”

In July this year, NASA has finalised a $935m contract with Northrop Grumman to develop the habitation and logistics outpost module (HALO module) for Gateway, a key component of the Artemis human spaceflight programme.