The Trump Administration announced plans to return Americans to the Lunar surface by the year 2024, some five years earlier than previously planned. This biggest challenge facing NASA is the development of the lunar lander needed to take astronauts to the surface. Such a vehicle had been under development under the Bush Administration, but had been halted under the Obama Administration. NASA now faces the choice of either reviving the Bush Adminisration Altair Lunar Lander, a large, highly capable system of the sort needed for extensive Lunar operations, or developing something along the lines of the Golden Spike lander, a minimalist vehicle that would meet the immediate political "footsteps and flags" requirements, but might not support much else.
On 09 May 2019, Jeff Bezos announced the Blue Moon lunar lander, which is capable of taking people and payloads to the lunar surface. The lander would be able to bring US astronauts to the Moon by 2024 in line with the goals set by US President Donald Trumpís administration. The world's richest man and Amazon.com Inc's chief executive waved an arm and a black drape behind him dropped to reveal the two-story-tall mockup of the unmanned lander dubbed Blue Moon during an hour-long presentation at Washington's convention center, just several blocks from the White House.
"This is Blue Moon. Weíve been working on this lander for three years. Itís a very large lander. It will soft-land in a precise way 3.6 metric tons onto the lunar surface. The stretched-tank variant of it will soft-land 6.5 metric tons onto the lunar surface Ö This is an incredible vehicle and itís going to the Moon. Itís time to go back to the moon, this time to stay", Bezos said at the press event in Washington, DC.
Blue Origin announced Blue Moon, its large lunar lander capable of delivering multiple metric tons of payload to the lunar surface based on configuration and mission. The cargo variant revealed today can carry 3.6 metric tons to the surface. The Company also designed a variant of the lander that can stretch to be capable of carrying a 6.5-metric-ton, human-rated ascent stage. Blue also announced it can meet the current Administration's goal of putting Americans on the Moon by 2024 with the Blue Moon lunar lander.
BE-7 engine: The Blue Moon lunar lander will be powered by the BE-7 engine, a new addition to Blue Originís family of engines. The BE-7ís 40 kN (10,000 lbf) thrust is designed for large lunar payload transport. The engineís propellants are a highly-efficient combination of liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen. The BE-7 will have its first hotfire in the summer of 2019. The engine will be available for sale to other companies for use in in-space and lander applications.
Historically, cryogenic rocket engines have not been used for in-space applications due to their additional complexity, the mission need for high reliability, and the challenges of propellant boil-off. The Apollo Saturn IVB third stage vehicle used a single J-2 LOX-hydrogen rocket engine to reach Earth orbit, for orbit circularization, and for trans-lunar injection. The Apollo service module and the Lunar Excursion Module descent and ascent propulsion used pressure-fed, hypergolic, bi-propellant rocket engines for trajectory adjustment, lunar capture. lunar descent, lunar ascent, and trans-Earth return propulsion. Virtually all planetary exploration missions have used hypergolic propellants for in-space propulsion.
While the mission and vehicle architectures are not yet defined for the lunar and Martian robotic and human exploration objectives, cryogenic rocket engines offer the potential for higher performance and greater architecturehission flexibility. In-situ cryogenic propellant production could enable a more robust exploration program by significantly reducing the propellant mass delivered to low earth orbit, thus warranting the evaluation of cryogenic rocket engines versus the hypergolic bipropellant engines used in the Apollo program.
Blue Moon is a flexible lander delivering a wide variety of small, medium and large payloads to the lunar surface. Its capability to provide precise and soft landings will enable a sustained human presence on the Moon. Blue Moon can deliver payloads to the lunar surface, host payloads and even deploy payloads during its journey to the Moon. Its technology builds on experience with New Shepard with respect to LH2/LOX propulsion, precision guidance, vertical landing and landing gear systems.
Blue Moon can land multiple metric tons of payload on the lunar surface. The top deck and lower bays easily accommodate a wide variety of payloads, including large payloads and ESPA-class payloads with standard ring port interfaces. There are lower mounting locations for payloads, useful for closer access to the lunar surface and off-loading. The Blue Moon lander provides kilowatts of power to payloads using its fuel cells, allowing for long mission durations and the ability to last through the lunar night. Blue Moon's precision guidance and descent sensors utilize machine learning technology to accurately land anywhere on the lunar surface, starting with its first mission.
The Blue Moon lander can deliver large infrastructure payloads with high accuracy to pre-position systems for future missions. The larger variant of Blue Moon has been designed to land an ascent vehicle that will allow returning Americans to the Moon by 2024.
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