Alabama is already set to play leading roles in landing the first woman and the next man on the surface of the moon through NASA’s Artemis program, and a major announcement Thursday only reinforced that reality.
Huntsville-based Dynetics, a wholly owned subsidiary of Leidos (NYSE: LDOS), was named as one of three prime contractors awarded a contract to design a Human Landing System (HLS) and compete to build the system that ultimately is used in Artemis.
The Dynetics approach to HLS, according to a release, “enables near-term reusability and sustainability and provides a robust, commercially supported lander capability, while boasting flight-proven technologies for habitat, power, thermal and other subsystems.”
The system’s crew module is reportedly designed to accommodate two people for nominal missions from lunar orbit to the lunar surface and back, including surface habitation for approximately one week. It can also ferry up to four suited crew members to or from the lunar surface.
“There’s really no more exciting mission than delivering humans to other planetary bodies,” stated Kim Doering, Dynetics vice president of Space Systems. “However, it’s also among the most challenging endeavors, particularly given the goal of landing on the moon in 2024. We believe Dynetics has the recipe for success.”
In addition to Dynetics, Blue Origin and SpaceX were respectively chosen as prime contractors under the award. The total combined value for all awarded contracts, per NASA, is $967 million for the 10-month base period.
“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,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “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 Dynetics HLS can be fully integrated and launched on the Space Launch System (SLS) Block 1B vehicle for Artemis, which is managed out of Huntsville’s Marshall Space Flight Center.
“I am confident in NASA’s partnership with these companies to help achieve the Artemis mission and develop the human landing system returning us to the Moon,” commented Lisa Watson-Morgan, HLS program manager at Marshall Space Flight Center. “We have a history of proven lunar technical expertise and capabilities at Marshall and across NASA that will pave the way for our efforts to quickly and safely land humans on the Moon in 2024.”
For commercial launches, the Dynetics HLS can be flown aboard United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Vulcan Centaur rocket.
Boeing is the lead contractor for the SLS core stage, with the company’s Huntsville-based Space and Launch division managing that SLS work. Meanwhile, ULA manufactures the Vulcan Centaur in Decatur. ULA was also named as one of more than 25 partners and subcontractors on the Dynetics-led team as part of the HLS contract award. Bridenstine tweeted that this team, which further includes Tuskegee University, is “robust.”
Dynetics is not only the prime contractor but also the system integrator on the team, which is composed of a broad and diverse set of small and mid-size businesses, as well as NASA field centers with industry-recognized technical expertise and programmatic experience. The team is located across 17 U.S. states, but major components and subsystems will be built, tested and integrated at a Dynetics facility in northern Alabama.
We are on our way to the Moon! In this new era of space exploration, we have selected three U.S. companies — @blueorigin, @Dynetics & @SpaceX — to develop human landers that will land #Artemis astronauts on the lunar surface.
— NASA (@NASA) April 30, 2020
Additionally, Dynetics is already delivering critical hardware to the SLS Core Stage, Exploration Upper Stage, Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and the International Space Station (ISS). Dynetics was previously chosen for a key role in Maxar’s plan for NASA’s Lunar Gateway, a space station that will orbit the Moon and serve as a vital part of Artemis’ success, as well as future expeditions to Mars. Dynetics will provide support for the power and propulsion element of Gateway and aid the establishment of a sustainable lunar presence.
Thursday’s announcement followed Dynetics being acquired by Leidos in recent months for $1.65 billion in cash.
“As a new member of the Leidos family, Dynetics continues to lead the industry with talented innovators eager to solve today’s complex problems,” concluded Leidos chairman and CEO Roger Krone. “NASA’s HLS is truly innovative and one that will revolutionize space travel. We are fully committed to this endeavor and proud to join the team returning Americans to the moon.”
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn