Notable Win for Blue Origin: Securing NASA’s Artemis V Lunar Lander Contract

By Spencer Hulse Spencer Hulse has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team
Published on May 22, 2023

Jeff Bezos’ space venture, Blue Origin, has marked a significant milestone with the acquisition of a contract worth over $3 billion from NASA. The contract tasks the development of a lunar lander for the Artemis V mission, set to return astronauts to the moon in 2029. Moreover, the victory for Blue Origin follows a previous setback in 2021, when the company’s bid was outperformed by Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

Artemis V: A Second Chance for Blue Origin

Blue Origin’s second opportunity for a lunar landing contract came via NASA’s Sustaining Lunar Development program, which came after SpaceX was the sole recipient of the crew lander contract in 2021. The awarded contract, worth over $3.4 billion, will be employed in the design and verification of Blue Origin’s lunar lander, in addition to an uncrewed demonstration mission prior to the 2029 crewed mission.

Industry Collaboration and the Blue Moon Lander

Blue Origin’s team, comprised of key industry giants including Lockheed Martin, Draper, Boeing, Astrobotic, and Honeybee Robotics, has joined forces to develop a state-of-the-art lunar lander known as the Blue Moon.

Standing at 52 feet (16 meters) with a payload capacity of up to 10 metric tons, Blue Moon will transport humans and cargo to the Moon. Its advanced technology will use liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen as propellants, and it’s designed for precision landing and hazard avoidance. The lander will also be equipped with a robotic arm, a deployable ramp, and a docking system compatible with Orion or the planned Lunar Gateway.

As a part of the team, Lockheed Martin will provide a cislunar transporter to refuel the reusable Blue Moon lander between missions, aiding cost reduction. Boeing, on the other hand, will contribute the descent element of the lander, including the main engines, avionics, software, and landing gear, and will assist with mission operations and training.

Artemis V Mission: Pioneering Lunar Exploration

Artemis V represents the fifth planned mission and third crewed landing of NASA’s Artemis Program, aiming to explore more of the Moon than ever before, uncover new scientific discoveries, and prepare for future astronaut missions to Mars.

In September 2029, Artemis V will launch four astronauts to the south pole of the Moon on a Space Launch System rocket and an Orion spacecraft. The mission will also include the delivery of two new components to the Gateway Space Station: the European Space Agency’s ESPRIT refueling and communications module and a Canadian-built robotic arm system.

The mission’s primary objectives are to demonstrate a sustained human presence on the lunar surface, conduct science and exploration activities at the south pole region, test technologies and systems for future Mars missions, and expand international partnerships and commercial opportunities.

The Space Race: Blue Origin and SpaceX

NASA’s decision to collaborate with both Blue Origin and SpaceX in the Artemis program provides a second option for lunar missions. While SpaceX was awarded $3 billion in 2021 to develop its Starship spacecraft for lunar landings, Blue Origin is set to test its Blue Moon lander on two uncrewed missions in 2024 and 2025 before the crewed demo on Artemis V in 2029.

NASA maintains that the two distinct lunar lander designs are critical for crew safety and will support competition for future lunar access opportunities.

The Future of Blue Origin in Lunar Exploration

Blue Origin’s ambitions for lunar exploration and space research extend beyond the Artemis V mission. The company’s future plans include developing reusable launch vehicles to lower the cost of space access, building New Glenn – a heavy-lift orbital rocket for large payloads, and establishing a permanent human settlement on the Moon.

Further strategies include supporting NASA’s Project Artemis goals of returning humans to the Moon by 2024, developing technologies for in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) on the Moon, collaborating with commercial and international partners for lunar exploration, and pursuing their long-term vision of enabling millions of people to live and work in space.

A Leap Forward

Blue Origin’s contract win signifies a crucial leap forward in lunar exploration and broader space research. As the company prepares for the Artemis V mission, its victory highlights the promise and potential of the future of lunar missions.

By Spencer Hulse Spencer Hulse has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team

Spencer Hulse is the Editorial Director at Grit Daily. He is responsible for overseeing other editors and writers, day-to-day operations, and covering breaking news.

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