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A Blue Origin subgroup hands over the lunar lander model to NASA

NASA’s Artemis program hand-picked three groups to work on the program’s Moon lander concepts. Blue Origin leads one of the teams that handed over a full-sized model of the lander to NASA for examination by the agency’s engineers and astronauts. During Blue Origin’s statement on August 20, the team confirmed installing an engineering structure of the lander at the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility at Johnson Space Center. The low-precision full-sized model is approximately 12 meters in height and integrates both the components built by Blue Origin and that developed by Lockheed Martin. 

The corporations built the model to enable NASA’s astronauts and engineers to review the vehicle’s design, particularly the locations of different components, and acquire feedback during the early phase of development of the lunar lander. During an interview, Brent Sherwood gave details of the assessment aspects, first being the cabin design, which involves the controls and displays within the spacecraft. Secondly, the angles of the view-point outside the cabin. The assessment will include taking cosmonauts into and out of the lander as well as its access apparatus. The test-runs will provide early feedback regarding the design, thus allowing for easy implementation of changes. 

Even with technological advancements such as virtual reality, the organizations insist on using a pilot model to test the lander’s design. Kirk Shireman, the previous director of NASA’s International Space Station program, pointed out the inadequacy of virtual reality to give a clear picture hence the need for a physical vehicle. The new modifications include fixing windows and other compartments that influence the lander’s general structure. The tests seek to point out details left out by the designers. 

Among the Blue Origin subgroup teams are two corporations Northrop Grumman and Draper, whose purpose is to oversee the operations facilitating this mission’s achievement. For example, Northrop Grumman will build the transfer element used in gliding the lander in the Moon orbit. Meanwhile, Draper will be outlining the navigation and orbital path. Sherwood’s revealed Blue Origin’s plans to conduct operations tests on its BE-7 engine which is a thruster for this moon lander, at the Marshall Space Flight Center. Further improvements are to be made on the propulsion and storage technologies for the engine. 

NASA deployed the Human Landing System (HLS) contracts to three firms four months ago. The Blue Origin team received a $579 million contract for this project. On the other hand, the Dynetics group procured the second HLS contract whose tune runs to $253 million, with the last team from SpaceX acquiring a similar agreement valued at $135 million. The team from Blue Origin anticipates being sanctioned to initiate operations in the upcoming weeks.

NASA intends to reschedule the call for submissions for the next stage of the project before September. The development of the model is a massive stride towards the success of the program. In conclusion, there is an anticipation of significant progress after the lead firm receiving the results and feedback from the evaluation of the full-sized moon lander module.