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An animated short film produced by NASA details how the agency plans to return to the moon by 2024 through its Artemis program.

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An emerging Space Coast company specializing in aerospace cryogenics was one of many selected under NASA’s new lunar contracts designed to push emerging technologies into the mainstream.

Eta Space, which has operations on Merritt Island and Rockledge, has joined a list of 13 other American companies selected for NASA’s “Tipping Point” contracts, which collectively are worth approximately $ 370 million. The program is designed to find technologies on the verge of maturity and help them overcome their pain points.

The contracts on Wednesday were mainly about cryogenic technologies or the storage and distribution of super cold propellants in space. NASA expects these to be crucial not only for missions originating from Earth, but also for the conversion of water ice on the moon into fuels for long-term lunar operations and possibly even trips to Mars.

Eta Space, which focuses on cryogenics, secured a total of $ 27 million, making it the fifth highest in the group. Co-founder Bill Notardonato said the company was founded by three former NASA employees, including himself, and plans to expand to other parts of the Space Coast in the near future.

Notardonato said Eta Space is planning a more detailed post-contract announcement and description of its operations next week.

“Most of the funding will help mature cryogenic fluid management technologies through space demonstrations led by small businesses Eta Space, Lockheed Martin, SpaceX and ULA,” NASA said Wednesday. “Each approach is unique and ranges from small and large scale testing to short and long term testing.”

A 13-foot-diameter cryogenic storage test tank was seen at NASA’s Glenn Research Center near Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo: NASA)

In addition to cogene fluids, contracts have also been awarded to companies involved in lunar surface operations and descent and landing demonstrations.

The 14 companies selected, in order of award value, were:

  • Lockheed Martin of Littleton, Colorado, $ 89.7 million
  • United Launch Alliance (ULA) of Centennial, Colorado, $ 86.2 million
  • SpaceX of Hawthorne, California, $ 53.2 million
  • Intuitive Machines from Houston, $ 41.6 million
  • Eta Space of Merritt Island, Florida, $ 27 million
  • Alpha Space Test and Research Alliance of Houston, $ 22.1 million
  • Nokia of America Corporation of Sunnyvale, California, $ 14.1 million
  • SSL Robotics of Pasadena, California, $ 8.7 million
  • Pittsburgh Astrobotics Technology, $ 5.8 million
  • pH Matter of Columbus, Ohio, $ 3.4 million
  • Masten Space Systems of Mojave, California, $ 10 million, $ 2.8 million
  • Teledyne Energy Systems of Hunt Valley, Maryland, $ 2.8 million
  • Sierra Nevada Corporation of Madison, Wisconsin, $ 2.4 million
  • Precision Combustion Inc. of North Haven, Connecticut, $ 2.4 million

If the programs hold up, NASA plans to launch its Artemis rocket program, the Space Launch System, in mid-November at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. This will pave the way for its first unmanned test flight as soon as late 2021, followed by further tests up to a scheduled landing of two astronauts on the moon in 2024.

Contact Emre Kelly at aekelly@floridatoday.com or 321-242-3715. Follow him Twitter, Facebook and Instagram on @EmreKelly. Support space journalism by signing up at floridatoday.com/specialoffer/.

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