Blue Origin and the members of its “national team” — Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper — have delivered a full-scale engineering prototype of their human lunar lander to NASA for the agency to examine and review as it readies to build the real thing for eventual use in NASA’s Artemis program moon missions.
The Blew Origin crew lander is now ready to undergo testing at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. This mock-up is not a functional version of the lander, but it does include full-sized components of the planned lander system, including the descent element that will be built by Blue Origin, and the ascent element that partner Lockheed Martin will be producing. Overall, the entire mock-up article measures just under 40-feet high.
The purpose of this engineering prototype is to allow for testing and simulation of crew interactions. Starting this early with the mock-up means that as they develop the eventual production lander, Blue Origin and its partners can gain valuable insights about aspects of the design, including instrument and component layout, visibility through windows from the cabin, ergonomics of seating and entry and exit points, and much more.
Simulation can help with a lot of the elements of spacecraft design, as can leveraging previous designs — both of which are things that Blue Origin and the national team are doing. But there’s a lot to learn that can only be gleaned through actual humans pretending to really use the spacecraft as they would on a mission, and many of those wouldn’t be caught by computer simulation or history lessons alone.
Blue Origin and its national team are one of three companies that won a first round of Human Lander System (HLS) contract awards from NASA. It’ll continue to flesh out this engineering mock-up over time, adding elements that will make it ever-closer to the final production model as development continues. Ultimately, it hopes to support NASA with its ambitious goal of landing the next American man and the first American woman on the surface of the moon by 2024.