Washington, Oct 15 NASA has picked 14 US companies, including several small businesses, as partners and awarded them $370 million in total to develop a range of technologies that will help forge a path to sustainable Artemis operations on the Moon by the end of the decade.
The space agency selected partners to develop technologies in cryogenic fluid management, lunar surface, and closed-loop descent and landing.
NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate will negotiate with the companies to issue milestone-based firm fixed-price contracts lasting for up to five years.
"NASA's significant investment in innovative technology demonstrations, led by small and large US businesses across nine states, will expand what is possible in space and on the lunar surface," said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.
"Together, NASA and industry are building up an array of mission-ready capabilities to support a sustainable presence on the Moon and future human missions to Mars."
Bridenstine announced the selections during a keynote address at the virtual fall Lunar Surface Innovation Consortium meeting on Wednesday.
The selected companies include SpaceX, Lockheed Martin, Nokia, Sierra Nevada, SSL Robotics and United Launch Alliance (ULA), among others.
"This is the most Tipping Point proposals NASA has selected at once and by far the largest collective award value," said NASA's Associate Administrator for Space Technology Jim Reuter.
The majority of the funding will help mature cryogenic fluid management technologies via in-space demonstrations led by small business Eta Space, Lockheed Martin, SpaceX, and ULA.
The ability to store these super-cold liquids, whether they are launched from Earth or produced in space, for an extended period and transfer propellant from one tank to another, is crucial for establishing sustainable operations on the Moon and enabling human missions to Mars.
Intuitive Machines will develop a small, deployable hopper lander capable of carrying a 2.2-pound payload more than 1.5 miles.
As part of its Artemis program, NASA plans to send the first woman and next man to the lunar surface in 2024 and establish a sustainable presence there by the end of the decade.
The agency will use the Moon to prepare for its next giant leap human exploration of Mars.
( With inputs from IANS )
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