Boeing has proposed using one rocket launch to deliver an integrated lunar lander system to lunar orbit as part of U.S. plans to return to the moon under the Artemis program. Boeing says the HLS can either dock with the Gateway or dock directly with Orion to take astronauts straight to the lunar surface. HLS also doesn't need an additional transfer stage to lower itself from lunar orbit.
NASA expects to award initial study contracts to several companies as soon as the end of the year, and eventually select two companies to proceed into full-scale development of landers, one which would be used for the initial 2024 landing and the other for a 2025 mission.
It is not yet known how many companies submitted lander proposals. Meanwhile, Blue Moon's design calls for a transfer stage, which will be built by Northrop Grumman. Blue Origin confirmed that its team, announced by company founder Jeff Bezos Oct. 22, had submitted a proposal to NASA by the November 5 deadline.
Finally, the Starliner's service module separated from the crew module and the latter touched down with a cushion of inflated airbags about a mile north of the test stand, approximately 90 seconds after the launch.
The lander will use key technologies from Boeing's CST-100 Starliner capsule, created to carry astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS).
In this artist's conception, Boeing's Human Lander System heads into orbit on the strength of a Space Launch System rocket.
The company's proposal calls for delivering the lander's Ascent Element and Descent Element to lunar orbit in one rocket launch to ensure it is tailored for maximum capability and crew safety.
The SLS is years behind schedule and is not expected to take off on its first unpiloted test flight until 2021.
"Using the lift capability of NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) Block 1B, we have developed a "Fewest Steps to the Moon" approach that minimizes mission complexity, while offering the safest and most direct path to the lunar surface."According to the company, the lander will be ready in time for the first Artemis moon landing mission in 2024, but it's unclear if the 1B variant booster will also be ready by then.
Boeing proposes using the giant SLS rocket now in production at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF), arguing it has "unmatched lift capability that builds on proven flight components". It could instead dock with Nasa's Orion spacecraft directly for a simpler mission profile.
The design includes innovations in its engines, composites, and automated landing and rendezvous systems.
It says key technologies are based on its CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, which recently passed a crucial abort test will be fully demonstrated during a flight to the International Space Station planned for December.