Dynetics has built a full-scale model of the lander that it hopes will soon bring NASA astronauts the moon.
The Alabama-based company unveiled the model of its proposed human lunar lander on Tuesday (Sept. 15). The low-fidelity prototype – which includes a crew module, deployable solar panels, and propellant tanks for lunar descent and ascent – will be used to inform and refine the lander’s final design.
“Our team is delighted to bring this system to life,” Kim Doering, vice president of space systems at Dynetics, he said in a statement. “Our reusable and sustainable approach is ready to support a successful and secure hardware supply for NASA̵
Related: NASA unveils plan for Artemis’ base camp on the moon beyond 2024
That mission, in general, is from NASA Artemis program of manned lunar exploration. Artemis aims to land two astronauts near the moon’s south pole in 2024 and establish a permanent and sustainable human presence on and around Earth’s natural satellite by 2028.
NASA plans to take Artemis astronauts out of Earth using its Orion capsule and Space Launch System (SLS) megarocket. But the agency relies on private industry to ferry crew members from the lunar orbit to the gray earth of the moon and ascend again. (In the long run, NASA wants these surface sorties to start from a small space station orbiting the moon called Gateway. But the 2024 mission may not use Gateway.)
In April of this year, the space agency announced it had done so awarded contracts to three private groups – Dynetics, SpaceX and The National Team, led by Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin – to develop their manned lander concepts. The agreements, worth a total of $ 967 million, are financing 10 months of work.
In early 2021, NASA is expected to select one or more of the three lander concepts for further development and testing. The agency wants at least one of the spacecraft to be operational by 2024, when its historic moon landing is scheduled for the Artemis 3 mission. (Artemis 1 and Artemis 2 will be unmanned and manned trips around the moon, respectively. launch is expected between the end of 2021 and 2023.)
NASA will procure lunar landing services from the company or companies whose landers reach operational flight. The model is similar to that employed by the agency’s commercial cargo and commercial crew programs, which purchase trips aboard private spacecraft to and from the International Space Station.
SpaceX plans to use his Spaceship Mars colonization system for the moon landing job. The national team design incorporates elements of Blue Origin’s Blue Moon lander, Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus spacecraft, and NASA’s Orion capsule, of which Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor.
The four-astronaut lander developed by Dynetics, a subsidiary of the technology and engineering firm Leidos, is about the same size as the Apollo lunar lander, Dynetics representatives said.
The spacecraft will be launched on a United Launch Alliance Vulcan Centaur rocket. Three Vulcan Centaur launches will be required for each mission, in fact, one each to lift the lander and its two external fuel tanks, Dynetics representatives said on Tuesday (Sept. 15) during a webinar hosted by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.
Dynetics plans to launch an unmanned demonstration mission displaying the required technologies, including off-Earth refueling, sometime before Artemis 3 takes off, Doering said during the webinar.
Mike Wall is the author of “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.