NASA requests proposal for a second lunar lander inhabited by Artemis

NASA has issued a Request for Proposals for a second human lunar lander for the Artemis program to join the Starship lander under development by SpaceX.

NASA issued a call for proposals on September 16, Almost six months after plans were announced for the Lunar Sustainability Development (SLD) project, and issuing a draft call for proposals for industry feedback. The agency has set a November 15 deadline for receiving offers with grants expected in May 2023.

The selected company will develop a lander that will support missions after Artemis 3, the first manned landing of the Artemis campaign that SpaceX will complete no later than 2025. The winning company will make an unmanned landing followed by a manned landing no earlier than. From the Artemis 5 mission in late 2020, you will be eligible, along with SpaceX, to complete lunar landing service contracts for subsequent missions.

“The work performed under this order, in addition to the existing lander development and studies, will help build the foundation for long-term deep space exploration,” Lisa Watson Morgan, program manager for the Human Landing System (HLS) at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, said in a statement about Launching the call for proposals.

In March, NASA described its Lunar Development Sustainability Commitment to Congress as having a competition in the comprehensive HLS program. “You promised competition, so here it is,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in the March announcement of the project.

The winning company will have to prove that its probe can meet the requirements of a lunar lander mission called the Polar Sortie Mission. This mission will carry two astronauts to the lunar surface for up to 6.25 days and will support four planners and one emergency walk on the lunar surface.

A subsequent polar flight mission will require the probe to fly four astronauts to the lunar surface and stay there for 33 days. This mission will assume that there are other assets at the landing site, such as the habitat where the astronauts will stay during the mission, and thus requires only one round trip on the lunar surface from the probe to home and back. Companies can also demonstrate how their landing can support short-stay missions to regions other than the south pole of the Moon as well as use it to transport cargo.

The original HLS competition, which SpaceX won in April 2021, also included bids from teams led by Blue Origin and Dynetics. Those companies objected to the award with the Government Accountability Office, which rejected the protests three months later. Then Blue Origin sued in federal court, which ruled against the company, allowing NASA to move forward with SpaceX.

Neither Blue Origin nor Dynetics have officially announced their intention to bid for the Sustaining Lunar Development Program, although Blue Origin has “Artemis Lander” Placeholder page on its website.

It’s also unclear whether Blue Origin’s “national team” partners that bid on HLS, including Draper, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, will rejoin Blue Origin in the new competition. Officials at Lockheed and Northrop were non-committal shortly after the project was announced in March, saying at the time they were considering options.

“We’re looking at SLD. It’s clearly an opportunity for us,” Lockheed Martin Space Executive Vice President Robert Lightfoot said in an August 28 interview ahead of our first Artemis 1 launch attempt. He said the company had decided which companies it would work with on the proposal but they weren’t ready to disclose it.