NASA makes an announcement on 14th September that the awards for what the agency calls NextSTEP. NextSTEP stands for Appendix N of its Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships. NASA made a request for applications for NextSTEP Appendix N in July in order to support work on what NASA labels “sustainable” human landing system ideas. This is in intention to support operations after Artemis 3. This is the first crewed lunar landing operation of the Artemis program.
Three of the awardees are part of the so-called “National Team” –
- Led by Blue Origin receives $25.6 million
- Lockheed Martin receives $35.2 million
- Northrop Grumman $34.8 million
While the three firms receive individual awards, a Lockheed official confirms they are still active in the Blue Origin-led squad while also exploring other options. “Lockheed Martin remains to be committed to the National Team and its thoughtful, safe, and sustainable lander system,” says Lisa Callahan. Lisa is the vice president and general manager of industrial civil space at Lockheed Martin.
As a long-standing and trustworthy NASA partner, we also believe it is crucial to offer additional tactics. This is in order to assist shape the approach for both –
- a sustainable human presence on the moon
- Also, future human missions to Mars
The Blue Origin-led squad was one of three bidders for the Human Landing System (HLS) program. This is where NASA funds the development of a lunar lander and a demonstration operation. Dynetics, another HLS bidder, receives $40.8 million.
Both Blue Origin’s National Team and Dynetics lost to SpaceX, which won a $2.9 billion award in April. This is for a lunar lander based on its Starship vehicle. SpaceX also receives an Appendix N award worth $9.4 million, by far the smallest of the five made by NASA.
Blue Origin particularly had been urging back in opposition to this approach, claiming it puts firms other than SpaceX, with its HLS award, at a drawback in a future LETS competition. Both Blue Origin and Dynetics objected to the HLS award to the Government Accountability Office, arguing in part that NASA’s judgment to make a single HLS award violates the terms of the competition.