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Artemis Lunar Landers

The Artemis Program will use Orion to transport astronauts to lunar orbit. From there, astronauts will transfer either to the Gateway Lunar Outpost for later transfer to a landing system, or transfer directly from Orion to a landing vehicle.

The lunar landing vehicle will be commercially built. On 30 April 2020, NASA designated three companies to design and build these systems. The companies designated were Blue Origin (Kent, Washington), Dynetics (Huntsville, Alabama), and SpaceX (Hawthorne, California).

On 17 April 2021, NASA chose SpaceX as the sole winner for continued development. The selection of a single company prompted protest and lawsuits from both Dynetics and Blue Origin. Initially, the original decision was upheld, but on 24 August 2021, NASA voluntarily suspended its contract with SpaceX. Then on 19 October 2021, the US Senate budget proposal for NASA directed that a second Artemis lunar lander proposal also be considered. Given that there was only a slight budget increase for entertaining two proposals, this MAY jeopardize the schedule for a proposed 2024 lunar landing.

Blue Origin

Blue Origin established Blue Moon to design and develop lunar landing systems for NASA. They are working on a Cargo Land and a Human Landing System (HLS).

The HLS uses three elements composing its Integrated Landing Vehicle (ILV). These elements will be launched using Blue Origins own New Glenn and ULA's Vulcan Centaur.

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Integrated Landing Vehicle (ILV) (Credit: Blue Origin)

The Transfer Element vehicle will move the HLS from a higher lunar orbit to an altitude at which the Descent Element can take over. It has been subcontracted to Northrup Grumman, and is based on Northrup Grumman's Cygnus ISS supply ship.

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Transfer Element vehicle (Credit: Blue Origin)

The Descent Element is being designed and built by Blue Origin, and is based upon their cargo lander. Descent guidance and avionics is being provided by Draper.

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Descent Element (Credit: Blue Origin)

The Ascent Element is a reusable vehicle and is being built for Blue Origin by Lockheed Martin.

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Ascent Element (Credit: Blue Origin)


Dynetics is a subsidiary of Leidos. The Dynetics lander (Dynetics Human Landing System or DHLS) has external propellant drop tanks which are discarded before landing. There are no separate descent and ascent modules. After landing, solar arrays are deployed. Transport to lunar orbit will be by ULA's Vulcan Centaur.

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Artist's conception of the DHLS on the lunar surface (Credit: Dynetics)


SpaceX is developing Starship, which a composite of the Starship itself and the Falcon Super Heavy launch vehicle. A modification of the Starship, stripped of its aerodynamic fins and heat shielding, is the SpaceX entry for the lunar lander. The Starship lander is single stage and fully reusable. There are no descent or ascent stages. It will be sent into lunar orbit by SpaceX's Falcon Super Heavy.

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Artist's concept of Starship on the lunar surface (Credit: SpaceX)


Page last modified: 30 October 2021 14:02:11.