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Satnews Daily
June 6th, 2019

NASA Selects Sierra Nevada Corporation's Prototypes ... Potential Human Lander for Lunar Artemis Mission

Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) has been selected to develop prototypes of key human lander elements for NASA’s accelerated Artemis lunar exploration program.

During the next six months, SNC will perform studies and develop prototypes to help NASA reduce schedule risk for the descent, transfer and refueling elements of a potential human landing system.

Artist's concept of THEMIS in orbit. Credits: NASA

SNC designed and manufactured the Descent Brake Mechanisms for several NASA missions including Mars 2020 and Curiosity Mars rover mission. SNC is also developing a ground prototype of its LIFE lunar habitat under NASA’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships 2 (NextSTEP-2) contract and Gateway concept.  The Gateway is an outpost that also supports sustainable lunar operations and long-duration exploration.  SNC’s inflatable habitat prototype recently arrived at Johnson Space Center for testing.  

NASA’s goal is to land astronauts on the moon by 2024 and establish sustainable missions by 2028. Elements needed to successfully get the plan off the ground include a human landing system to transport astronauts to the moon’s surface, including a transfer element for the journey from the lunar Gateway to low-lunar orbit, a descent element for a safe landing on the surface, and an ascent element to return astronauts to the Gateway. NASA is also is looking at refueling capabilities to make these systems reusable.

NASA awarded a total of $45.5 million split between the companies who won the Appendix E contract under NextSTEP. NextSTEP is a partnership between public and private entities, reducing cost and encouraging competition and efficiency.