Jeff Bezos presents the Blue Moon spacecraft.
|Payload mass||4500 kg |
|Start of mission|
|Launch date||2024 (planned) |
|Rocket||New Glenn or Vulcan|
|Landing site||Lunar south pole region|
Blue Moon is a robotic space cargo carrier and lander for making cargo deliveries to the Moon. Designed and operated by Blue Origin for use on a mission aimed for 2024, Blue Moon derives from the vertical landing technology used in Blue Origin's New Shepard sub-orbital rocket.
The lander is planned to be capable of delivering 4,500 kilograms (9,900 lb) to the surface of the Moon. The cargo vehicle could also be used to support NASA activities in cis-lunar space, or transport payloads of ice from Shackleton Crater to support space activities. The first projected mission for the craft would be a 2024 lunar south pole region landing. It is proposed that a series of landings could be used to deliver the infrastructure for a Moon base.
Blue Origin began development work on the lander in 2016, publicly disclosed the project in 2017, and unveiled a mock up of the Blue Moon lander in May 2019.
Design work on the lander began in 2016. The lander platform was first publicly revealed in March 2017, with a lunar-surface-delivered payload capacity of 4,500 kilograms (10,000 lb) at which time the first lunar landing mission was projected for 2020.
Blue Origin's president Rob Myerson said, in 2017, that the lander could be launched with multiple launch vehicles including Blue Origin's New Glenn, or the United Launch Alliance Atlas V, or even be modified to launch on NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. and next-generation Vulcan launch vehicle.
In a May 2018 interview, Blue Origin's CEO Jeff Bezos indicated that Blue Origin would build Blue Moon on its own, with private funding, but that they would build it a lot faster if it were done in a partnership with existing government space agencies. Bezos mentioned the December 2017 directive of the Trump Administration to steer NASA to include a lunar mission on the pathway to other beyond Earth orbit (BEO) destinations, and also his support for the Moon Village concept, "a proposal promoted by European Space Agency head Jan Woerner for cooperation among countries and companies to cooperate... on lunar capabilities".
In May 2019, Blue unveiled a mockup of the Blue Moon lander at the Washington D.C. Convention Center and released specification details for the autonomous lander that can soft land up to 6.5 tonnes (7.2 tons) on the Moon. The lander will be powered by a new Blue-developed liquid oxygen/liquid hydrogen rocket engine called the BE-7. In later versions, Blue Moon could be upgraded to carry passengers to the Moon as well.
In July 2019, NASA announced that Glenn Research Center and Johnson Space Center will engage in an industrial partnership with Blue Origin to develop a fuel cell power system for the Blue Moon lander, in order to enable it to endure the frigid two-week-long lunar night.
In October 2019, it was announced that Blue, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper Laboratory would collaborate to create a proposal for the "Human Landing System" (HLS) for NASA's Artemis program, with Blue serving as the primary contractor with a variation of its Blue Moon Lunar Lander serving as the descent stage. Lockheed Martin would build the ascent stage, in part based on its Orion crew capsule technology. Northrop Grumman would build a transfer stage based on its Cygnus spacecraft technology. The lander was projected to launch on Blue Origin's reusable New Glenn rocket. In April 2020, Blue won a design contract of US$579 million from NASA to advance the design of a human lunar lander for the Artemis program during a 10-month period in 2020–21. Blue's proposal—submitted along with several large US government space contractors including Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Draper Laboratory, each acting as a subcontractor to Blue who will provide the descent element and also be the integration lead—was for the Integrated Lander Vehicle (ILV), a multi-element spacecraft consisting of an in-space transfer element and ascent element in addition to the Blue-provided descent element. The NASA paid design work will start in 2020 and continue into 2021. The ILV descent element will be a variant of the Blue Moon lunar lander that Blue had been working on for nearly three years by early 2020. At the end of the ten month program, NASA will evaluate which contractors will be offered contracts for initial demonstration missions and select firms for development and maturation of lunar lander systems.
A BE-3U LOX/Hydrogen rocket engine will be used to place the lander on a trans-lunar injection trajectory and to begin to decelerate the vehicle for its lunar surface landing. The lander will "land tail-down" using 49 kilonewtons (11,000 lbf) liquid oxygen/liquid hydrogen thrusters that were under development before April 2017.
Blue Origin is leading the design of the Integrated Lander Vehicle (ILV)—a multi-element spacecraft consisting of an in-space transfer element (from Northrop Grumman), a descent element (a variant of Blue Moon), and an ascent element (Lockheed-Martin)—as a 2020/21 NASA-funded design award for a human lunar lander for the NASA's Artemis program, potentially landing NASA astronauts on the Moon in 2024, following an uncrewed demonstrator ILV that, as of 2020[update], is slated to land on the Moon in 2023.
Blue Origin intends the entire ILV architecture to be core to what would make up their modular lunar architecture for 2026 and beyond.