As NASA gets set to return to the moon in 2024 and head to Mars several years later, the space agency awarded a number of US companies with contracts worth $370 million to help make these plans happen.
The contracts, awarded on Wednesday, are for a variety of different initiatives, including cryogenic fluid management and “the first LTE/4G communications system in space.”
“NASA’s significant investment in innovative technology demonstrations, led by small and large US businesses across nine states, will expand what is possible in space and on the lunar surface,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine in a statement. “Together, NASA and industry are building up an array of mission-ready capabilities to support a sustainable presence on the Moon and future human missions to Mars.”
The 14 contracts total more than $370 million and the fixed-price contracts can last up to five years.
Part of NASA’s “Tipping Point solicitation,” these contracts will help the space agency and its partners “develop a range of technologies that will help forge a path to sustainable Artemis operations on the Moon by the end of the decade,” NASA added.
A technology is under consideration for the Tipping Point program “if an investment in a demonstration will significantly mature the technology, increase the likelihood of infusion into a commercial space application, and bring the technology to market for both government and commercial applications,” according to a description of the program.
Here is the list of US companies and award amounts, along with what the contract is for.
Cryogenic Fluid Management Technology Demonstration
Eta Space, $27 million contract for “small-scale flight demonstration of a complete cryogenic oxygen fluid management system.” Lockheed Martin, $89.7 million contract for “in-space demonstration mission using liquid hydrogen … to test more than a dozen cryogenic fluid management technologies, positioning them for infusion into future space systems.” SpaceX, $53.2 million contract for “large-scale flight demonstration to transfer 10 metric tons of cryogenic propellant, specifically liquid oxygen, between tanks on a Starship vehicle.” United Launch Alliance, $86.2 million contract for “demonstration of a smart propulsion cryogenic system, using liquid oxygen and hydrogen, on a Vulcan Centaur upper stage.”
Lunar Surface Innovation Initiative Technology Demonstration
Alpha Space Test and Research Alliance, $22.1 million contract to “give small experiments access to the lunar environment to collect data and experience exposure to the ultraviolet and charged particle radiation.” Astrobotic, $5.8 million contract for “mature and demonstrate a fast, wireless charging system that addresses challenges associated with using the technology on the Moon.” Intuitive Machines, $41.6 million contract to “develop a small, deployable hopper lander capable of carrying a 2.2-pound (1-kilogram) payload more than 1.5 miles (2.5 kilometers).” Masten Space Systems $2.8 million contract to “build and demonstrate a universal chemical heat and electrical power source attachment that lets payloads survive the extreme environments encountered during the lunar night and in craters.” Masten Space Systems, $10 million contract to “demonstrate precision landing and hazard avoidance testing capabilities across relevant lunar trajectories.” Nokia of America, $14.1 million contract to “deploy the first LTE/4G communications system in space.” pH Matter, $3.4 million contract to “demonstrate a reversible, regenerative fuel cell capable of producing power and storing energy on the lunar surface.” Precision Combustion, $2.4 million contract to “advance a cost-effective power solution for space, military, and everyday applications on Earth.” Sierra Nevada, $2.4 million contract to “develop demonstration-scale hardware that uses methane and concentrated solar energy to extract oxygen from lunar regolith.” SSL Robotics, $8.7 million contract to “develop a lighter and less expensive robotic arm for lunar surface applications, in-orbit servicing, and terrestrial defense applications.” Teledyne Energy Systems, $2.8 million contract to “advance a hydrogen electrical power system to enable a fuel cell with an operating lifetime of 10,000 hours.”