Each business partner will bring their industry leading solutions to help fulfil NASA's Artemis program which plans to land the first woman and next man on the moon in 2024.

By Ian Horswill


Posted on October 23, 2019

Three major US aerospace companies Draper, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman have been unveiled by Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos as his “national team” to land the first woman and next man on the moon for NASA’s Artemis program.

Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man, announced the news at the 70th International Astronautical Congress in Washington DC.

Draper, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman will join with Blue Origin to build a crewed lunar lander for Artemis, NASA’s project to return astronauts to the moon by 2024, Jeff Bezos said.

“We could not ask for better partners,” Jeff Bezos told the International Astronautical Congress. “This is a national team for a national priority. We are going back to the moon to stay.”

NASA’s Artemis program is to go to the moon in 2024 in readiness for astronauts to land on Mars. NASA wants sustainable exploration by 2028 before sending astronauts to Mars.

Blue Origin’s crewed moon lander project follows a NASA call to arms last month, opening the door to commercial lunar lander ideas for Artemis astronauts.

According to Jeff Bezos, Blue Origin will lead its lunar lander team and provide the Descent Element that will ultimately carry a crew to the moon’s surface. The descent stage will use the company’s new BE-7 engine and a design derived from the robotic Blue Moon lander Jeff Bezos unveiled earlier this year.

Lockheed Martin will build a reusable Ascent Element, which will house the astronauts and return them to lunar orbit once their surface work is complete. The company, which is also building NASA’s Orion crew capsule, will oversee Blue Origin crew flight operations and training.

“Lockheed Martin has been honoured to help NASA explore space for more than 50 years, providing deep space robotic missions, planetary landers, space shuttle heritage and the Orion exploration spacecraft,” said Rick Ambrose, executive vice president, Lockheed Martin Space. “We value Blue Origin’s thoughtful approach to developing human-rated flight systems, and are thrilled to be part of a national team with this mix of innovation and experience. We look forward to safely and sustainably returning our nation to the surface of the Moon by 2024.”

Jeff Bezos praised Lockheed Martin’s expertise at landing on Mars and its experience with crewed life support systems.

“They are experts in life support systems and so to have their expertise on the Ascent Element is a really big deal,” he said.

Northrop Grumman will provide a Transfer Element for the lunar lander, bringing it near the moon before the lander separates to make the final descent.

“Northrop Grumman’s commitment to putting Americans back on the moon dates back over 50 years ago with the delivery of the first lunar lander for the historic Apollo Program,” said Blake Larson, corporate vice president and president of Innovation Systems at Northrop Grumman. “Along with our ongoing work on the Space Launch System boosters, astronaut escape system, and the Gateway habitat, we are proud to be a part of the Blue Origin national team to support NASA’s Artemis program and the ambitious goal to return to the moon by 2024.”

Draper, meanwhile, will design the guidance and navigation systems that will guide the lander to the moon. It’s something Draper has done before for NASA’s Apollo program, but the process has evolved with new technologies.

“We guided Apollo to the moon and back nearly 50 years ago,” Draper President and CEO Kaigham Gabriel said in a statement. “We’re ready to do it again with the Blue Origin team for Artemis.”