Alabama connections run strong in NASA picks for moon lander systems

The company is developing the Dynetics Human Landing System, a single structure providing the ascent and descent capabilities that will launch on the ULA Vulcan launch system.

The next-generation Vulcan rocket is being produced at the sprawling United Launch Alliance production facility in Decatur, America’s largest rocket factory.

Also selected as a prime contractor is Washington-based Blue Origin, which will build the three-stage lander to be launched on its own New Glenn Rocket System and the Alabama-built ULA Vulcan rocket.

Blue Origin earlier this year officially opened a 350,000-square-foot rocket engine production facility in Huntsville, where it will produce its heavy-lift BE-4 rocket engine.

Big News! The #Artemis generation is going to the Moon to stay. I’m excited to announce that we have selected 3 U.S. companies to develop human landers that will land astronauts on the Moon: @BlueOrigin@Dynetics & @SpaceX

— Jim Bridenstine (@JimBridenstine) April 30, 2020

The third prime contractor is California-based Space X, which is developing the Starship, a fully integrated lander that will use the SpaceX Super Heavy rocket.

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville is overseeing the development of the human landing system (HLS) for the Artemis program.

“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” said Lisa Watson-Morgan, HLS program manager at Marshall.

“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,” she added.

NASA experts will work closely with the commercial partners building the next human landing systems,  leveraging decades of human spaceflight experience and the speed of the commercial sector to achieve a Moon landing in 2024.

NASA said its commercial partners will refine their lander concepts through the contract base period ending in February 2021. During that time, the agency will evaluate which of the contractors will perform initial demonstration missions.

NASA will later select firms for development and maturation of sustainable lander systems followed by sustainable demonstration missions.