NASA releases a further breakdown of Artemis HLS vehicle risks and challenges

The three winners of the HLS contracts. Credit: NASA

MAY 14, 2020–In a virtual conference yesterday, NASA HEO released a further breakdown of the Human Lander System, or HLS contracts. The conference was held by Dr. Lisa Watson-Morgan, Program Manager at Marshall Spaceflight Center (MSFC), and Dr. Greg Chavers, Deputy Program Manager at MSFC.

To recap, NASA awarded 3 HLS contracts on April 30, 2020. On all sides, a complete lander system was proposed, “including launch vehicles for an end-to-end solution for 2024 and sustaining missions,” according to NASA.

The three contract winners were:

  • The Blue Origin National Team, receiving $579 million for the three-stage Integrated Lander Vehicle with “significant proven spaceflight heritage”.
  • Dynetics, receiving $253 million for a reusable, single-stage lander with “mass-produced” drop tanks and a low crew cabin.
  • SpaceX, receiving $135 million for the Starship, a reusable, single-stage lander with a “spacious cabin” and fully integrated lander.

These contracts were awarded for a certain “base period”, lasting 10 months, from May 2020 to February 2021. During the base period, four contract items are outlined.

  • 2024 HLS design and development, excepting of “long lead items” (which will be described later), must be worked on.
  • 2026 HLS design, involving risk-reduction design work in direct support of a 2026 HLS mission is permitted. Long lead items are not in the scope of this item. (2026 is the target for Gateway integration.)
  • Acquisition of 2024 Long Lead items. Long lead items are defined as flight hardware with a value of over $100k that must be procured during the base period to enable a 2024 flight demonstration.
  • Special studies – Any extra studies, analysis, or support tasks to be done as needed.

Most of this work should be done by the end of the base period. On top of the base period items, NASA has evaluated some challenges and risks that all three vehicles must get through. All three vehicles need to work through launch vehicle maturity and complex integrated propulsion systems development.

Per vehicle, Starship must work on the numerous, highly complex, launch-rendezvous-refuel operations in quick succession, along with the airlock height being an order of magnitude higher than the other vehicles.

Dynetics’ HLV must work on damage to the common descent-ascent engine from engine induced debris, and the National Team must work on making sure the integrated vehicle (with all three stages together) can operate as one.

For more information, the full slideshow is available here.

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