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.
“SNC is proud to have been selected by NASA to support accelerating NASA’s mission to return the next man or woman to the moon,” said SNC CEO Fatih Ozmen. “We have been developing lunar concept designs in anticipation of America’s return to the moon, and it’s great to be part of the team that moves this mission forward.”
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.
“SNC has significant experience in space missions, with a heritage of three decades of going into space, so we are positioned to create and execute innovative ideas,” said Steve Lindsey, former NASA space shuttle commander, astronaut and Air Force pilot and current vice president of Space Exploration Systems for SNC’s Space Systems business area.
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.