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NASA Solicits New Human Landing System Concepts

A drawing of an astronaut looking out at the lunar surface.
Image: NASA

NASA announced yesterday that it plans to issue a call for concepts for another human lunar lander, aiming to give its original awardee, SpaceX, some competition on the Moon. 

New lander concept

NASA plans to release a draft solicitation soon and award a second Human Landing System (HLS) contract in the new year. The new contract, called Sustaining Lunar Development, is being marketed as a means of bolstering competition and ensuring lunar redundancy. 

The US space agency says that it wants two viable options for landers for future lunar missions, as well as human missions to Mars in the late 2030s or 2040s. 

  1. The Sustaining Lunar Development contract will cover an uncrewed and crewed demo mission for the new HLS.
  2. The new lander design must be able to carry more mass and dock with the Gateway lunar station.
  3. NASA is targeting 2026 or 2027 for the crewed flight of the new lander.

Administrator Bill Nelson hedged, when asked about hard numbers and the value of the contract. He told the press to wait for Pres. Biden to release the FY23 budget next week. What we do know, though, is that the contract will be fixed-price and milestone-based.

And the old one…SpaceX won the original $2.89B contract for HLS in April 2021. Under that contract, the company will perform one uncrewed demo flight and one crewed demo flight (Artemis III). Now, NASA has offered Option B on that contract, which will allow SpaceX to iterate on its design to meet the new specs and perform another crewed demo.

After a formal complaint and failed lawsuit over the first contract award, a “thrilled” Blue Origin said yesterday they will be coming back for a second shot to compete. Dynetics, another original competitor, will also submit a concept.

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