The Blue Origin-led “National Team” has submitted a proposal to NASA for its Human Landing System (HLS), which would be used to transport the next lunar astronauts to the surface of the moon during NASA’s forthcoming Artemis mission series. Blue Origin is one of three companies selected by NASA to bid on contracts for its human moon-landing missions, leading its team comprised of itself, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper. SpaceX and Dynetics were the other companies with proposals strong enough to impress the U.S. space agency.
Blue Origin’s submitted proposal is for the so-called Option A portion of the NASA HLS proposal ask, which is set intentionally to provide the right timing for the current 2024 target for the first human landing to take place during the Artemis series. There’s also an Option B ask, which would be for later-stage missions, including a 2026 flight demonstration. NASA is seeking a private partner to build the human landing system, which will be wholly owned by the commercial entity that ends up producing the vehicle, with NASA acting as a customer — similar to what the agency did with its Commercial Crew program for transportation from Earth to the International Space Station.
The HLS is designed to dock with NASA’s lunar Gateway space station, which will orbit the moon and provide a staging base for reaching the lunar surface. NASA astronauts will make the trip to the moon using the in-development Orion spacecraft, which will launch atop the Space Launch System rocket, both of which are NASA-owned, and built by contractors (Lockheed Martin/Airbus and Boeing respectively).
NASA envisions a future in which the Gateway and moon act as hubs for commercial activity as well as science and research, and so the HLS was designed to foster the creation of landing systems that can also serve private company customers in addition to the agency.