Blue Origin is developing the three-stage lander called the “integrated lander vehicle” that will be launched on its New Glenn Rocket System and ULA Vulcan launch system, according to NASA.
The Huntsville, Alabama-based Dynetics is developing the “Dynetics Human Landing System,” which will be a single structure for both ascent and descent launched on the ULA Vulcan launch system, NASA said.
SpaceX is developing the Starship, a fully-integrated lander that will use the company’s Super Heavy rocket, according to NASA.
“With these contract awards, America is moving forward with the final step needed to land astronauts on the Moon by 2024, including the incredible moment when we will see the first woman set foot on the lunar surface,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a written statement. “This is the first time since the Apollo era that NASA has direct funding for a human landing system, and now we have companies on contract to do the work for the Artemis program.”
The three contractors will refine their lander concepts between now and February 2021. NASA will evaluate the companies’ demonstration missions and later select which it wants “for development and maturation of sustainable lander systems” that it will eventually buy for transportation to the lunar surface, according to the agency.
The program is intended to “reveal new knowledge about the Moon, Earth and our origins in the solar system,” according to NASA. The agency also has plans to use the Moon as a jumping-off point for further exploration, including an eventual mission to Mars.
In the shorter term, SpaceX is scheduled to become the first private company to fly American astronauts into space next month when astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley ride aboard a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station. That launch is scheduled for May 27.