NASA has announced the total funding it will distribute to the 14 companies it’s chosen to work with on developing key, innovative technologies that will be instrumental in helping get the agency to the Moon through the Artemis program, and potential to Mars and beyond later on.
The U.S. space agency is awarding $43.2 million to the companies, in varying amounts ranging from $1.3 million to as much as $10 million (going to Blue Origin) for the most lucrative contract.
NASA announced a similar series of partnerships selected to further its Moon shot program back in July, which also included SpaceX and Blue Origin. This new “Tipping Point” partnership program round includes Blue Origin, as mentioned, as well as SpaceX, OxEon Energy, Skyre, SpaceX, Infinity Fuel Cell and Hydrogen, Paragon Space, TallannQuest, Accion Systems, CU Aerospace, ExoTerra, Blue Canyon Technologies, Astrobotic Technology, Intuitive Machines and Luna Innovations.
It includes projects that range from developing autonomous navigation for satellites, better propulsion systems, rover tech, advanced spacecraft avionics, cryogenic propellant and more.
Blue Origin will be using its $10 million to develop a ground-based demonstration of liquefying hydrogen and oxygen, and storing the resulting liquid. This will demonstrate the viability of producing and storing liquid rocket propellant on the Moon, and will be a key stepping down towards the development of a Moon-based propellant production plant.
Meanwhile, SpaceX will be working with NASA Marshall in Huntsville, Alabama to build nozzles that will be used in spacecraft refuelling operations. This tech will be crucial to SpaceX’s Starship, which Elon Musk said on Saturday will need to refuel ship-to-space tanker in orbit in order to load in enough propellant post Earth-based launch to make the rest of the trip to the Moon and Mars. NASA awarded SpaceX $3 million to support this project.
Astrobotic is working with Carnegie Mellon University with a $2 million investment from NASA in order to develop and build small rovers that can carry light payloads and work in tandem with large landers. These would act like advance scouts to work on researching and readying landing and base sites on the Moon. The concept illustration above depicts one of these proposed rover designs.
For the full list of projects, and the amount award to each, check out the official NASA announcement of the ‘Tipping Point’ partnerships.
Author: Darrell Etherington