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NASA Publishes Pre-solicitation for Human Lunar Lander Ascent System

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
April 8, 2019
Filed under , ,

NASA’s cancelled Altair lander on the moon. (Credit: NASA)

Human Landing System – Ascent Element
Solicitation Number: NNH19ZCQ001K_APP-H
Notice Type: Pre-solicitation
Full Pre-solicitation

Synopsis:
Added: Apr 08, 2019 3:30 pm

NASA intends to release a solicitation under the second Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP-2) Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) to seek proposals from industry in support of design analysis, technology maturation, system development and integration, and space flight demonstrations for the Ascent Element of the Human Landing System (HLS), an integrated lunar transportation system. The Ascent Element will provide a safe environment as humans are transported to the lunar surface. The Ascent Element also provides powered ascent for the crew to return them safely from the lunar surface. The primary objective of this Appendix to the NextSTEP-2 BAA is to enable rapid development and flight demonstrations of human lunar landers.

Contracts awarded under Appendix H may have multiple phases. The first phase will be for brief studies in order to mature requirements, tailor applicable standards, procure long-lead parts and implement technology maturation plans for early risk reduction. Following the study, NASA intends to execute future phases that may result in multiple awards, for the Design, Development, Test, and Evaluation (DDT&E) and flight demonstrations of Ascent Elements. The detailed study requirements and additional information on the overall acquisition strategy will be contained in the forthcoming Appendix H solicitation.

NASA will use the information gained through these initial studies to inform the performance requirements for the HLS and will work with industry to continue to mature the approach for future missions.

30 responses to “NASA Publishes Pre-solicitation for Human Lunar Lander Ascent System”

  1. Andrew_M_Swallow says:
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    I believe the cabin and propulsion module should be different tasks. The cabin is a capsule where as the propulsion module is a mini launch vehicle. These are different skills.

    • savuporo says:
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      Nobody prohibits a prime and a subcontractor entry though.

      • Andrew_M_Swallow says:
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        The cabin will have an International Docking System Standard (IDSS) adaptor. There is an proposed enhancement to the IDSS (a.k.a. NASA Docking System) for in space refuelling. The fuel and oxidizer refuelling pipes could run down the outside of the cabin if the propulsion team ask for it.

  2. Saturn1300 says:
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    No decent though. I think they are putting the cart before the horse.

    • Larry J says:
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      It helps to design these things in reverse. Once you’ve determined what you need to launch the crew, samples, etc. from the lunar surface to the desired lunar orbit, you can then determine what performance the descent stage needs.

      • ThomasLMatula says:
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        You do not need a decent stage if you use a Starship to deliver it to the lunar surface and just use it as a lifeboat for a Moon Base.

        • Larry J says:
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          As with everything, time will tell how successful Starship will be. Your suggestion of having an escape lifeboat is a good one. It could also serve as the ascent stage of a more conventional lunar lander if that’s what is needed.

    • gunsandrockets says:
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      NASA already asked for proposals for descent element, transfer element and refueling element back in February. They held back asking for ascent element, until now. See this video.

      https://images.nasa.gov/det

  3. gunsandrockets says:
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    Well NASA has their suggested 3 stage Lunar Lander architecture. But apparently they aren’t wedded to it. They are wedded to NRHO rendezvous though.

    Looking at the minimum requirements NASA has for each element of the lander, I’m puzzled. Except for the presumably 9t ascent element, the other elements are limited to a maximum wet mass of 16t. The suggestion is that commercial rockets could deliver those elements to Gateway. But the only rocket today with that ability is the Falcon Heavy.

    • Jeff2Space says:
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      “They are wedded to NRHO rendezvous though.” – Because that’s as close to the moon as Orion can get.

      • gunsandrockets says:
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        Even if you could, why would you want to drop a heavy Earth reentry capsule deeper into the Lunar gravity well? NRHO rendezvous is fine.

        An 8-9 tonne lunar ascent element is all that is needed to get from the lunar surface to Gateway rendezvous.

        • Jeff2Space says:
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          Because when you start incorporating reusable hardware (e.g. lander), it’s advantageous to have that reusable hardware perform as little delta-V as possible. Hence a low lunar orbit for staging/refueling wins over NRHO.

          NASA’s baselined crewed lander will have three stages, not all of which will be reusable. This is due to the NRHO requirement, which is due to the SLS/Orion requirement.

          • gunsandrockets says:
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            You have that backwards. The more propellant you can produce on the Moon, the more delta-V your reusable lander can afford to provide to the chain of elements required to transport people between the Earth and Moon. A high delta-V lander means you could reduce the size (and cost) of every other link of the chain. And looming in size and cost, more than any other link, is your Earth launch vehicle.

            And that brings us full circle to the NASA three stage lander. The primary reason they break up that lander into three stages isn’t just because of the delta-V required for NRHO rendezvous. A single stage reusable lander could do that, and Lockheed-Martin has a proposal which could do so. The primary reason for the three stage lander, is to size each stage so it could be delivered by a commercial launch vehicle, so the lander doesn’t require use of a dedicated SLS.

            • Jeff2Space says:
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              You’re putting the cart before the horse. We have zero capability right now to produce propellant from lunar resources. Maybe in the next 10+ years or so, but certainly not in the near term.

              • gunsandrockets says:
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                A smaller lander for LLO rendezvous, means a bigger fatter Orion. And then there’s the question of how does your lander get into LLO in the first place? Does it require Orion to put it there, Apollo style? Now you’ve made your Orion even bigger than your LLO version of Orion.

                There’s no free lunch. You pay that delta-V cost of propellant mass one way or another.

              • Andrew_M_Swallow says:
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                The fuel tankers going to the Gateway will probably end up being expendable – the same way Cygnus cargo spacecraft for the ISS are. Alternatively they use solar electric propulsion.

              • gunsandrockets says:
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                I was thinking the same thing about disposable one way cargo missions to Gateway. Cygnus is the obvious example for pressurized cargo. (Though not until Gateway has a Canadarm, so Cygnus can berth) A pure cargo tanker might not be anything more than a partly full ACES with propellant transfer capability.

                Looking at the possible means of cargo delivery to Gateway (or other cislunar locations), the problems with reusable tugs becomes quickly apparent. If the reusable tug is efficient enough to save on launch mass to LEO, then they introduce operational headaches which make it all seem counterproductive. Such as with solar-electric.

                Travel times for solar electric are enormous. Which really makes it only suitable for transporting propellant. And spiraling up and down through the Van Allen belts not only tears up the tug from radiation, it kills half of the ISP efficiency of the electric engine.

                Sometimes the most efficient solutions, such as a reusable lunar tug, are not the most cost effective.

              • Andrew_M_Swallow says:
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                The design and construction of the Gateway needs replanning. Can the Canadarm be launched with the PPE?

                How many docking ports does the Gateway need to support the manned lunar landing?

                The entire lunar and Mars architecture needs reviewing. This will allow the functions of both the full Gateway and the mini Gateway to be derived.

              • gunsandrockets says:
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                If you throw out everything NASA has in the pipeline and start from scratch you will never land anyone on the Moon by 2024. The timeline is too short.

              • Andrew_M_Swallow says:
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                A replan can be done in a mouth. Where you are at the moment on all the projects is one of the factors that effects how you get a man to the Moon by 2024. It also sets up what NASA does afterwards such as ISRU from the Moon base.

          • gunsandrockets says:
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            “NASA’s baselined crewed lander will have three stages, not all of which will be reusable. This is due to the NRHO requirement, which is due to the SLS/Orion requirement.”

            Not quite accurate. You have to get into the weeds of the NASA requirements to see several interesting things. And the first of those is NASA wants even the descent stage to work towards reusability, NASA just don’t require reusability for the initial version of the descent stage.

            • Jeff2Space says:
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              not all of which will be reusable And there’s your problem. The delta-V requirement to go form NRHO to the surface and back is quite a bit higher than to go from LLO to the surface and back.

              • gunsandrockets says:
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                From page 27 of Human Landing System BAA

                “descent element requirement…preliminary goal”

                “Reusability (Full reusability: ability to be refueled and reused on a subsequent mission)…Evolvable to be refuelable to support eventual full reusability”

      • Jeff Smith says:
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        I still think a ESM Blk II should be proportionally sized to the Apollo SM. Probably wishful thinking at this point…

  4. gunsandrockets says:
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    If NASA has any hope of meeting the 2024 deadline they need to go small, a 2 man lander instead of a 4 man lander.

    Yes, eventually we want a great big reusable single stage lander like the 62t Lockheed-Martin, to take advantage of lunar ice processed into rocket propellant. But that day is at least 10 years away at best.

  5. windbourne says:
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    This is actually a bad set up.
    They really need to have a lander that will carry 3 different items;
    1) a fuel carrier. It should be capable of landing with the fuel carrier and carrier needs to provide enough fuel for 2 fully equipped landers to go to space with. IOW, the fuel on the tanker should be enough for this lander and another.
    2) a cargo unit. It should go up empty UNTIL fuel is being produced on the moon (i.e. no more need for the fuel carrier).
    3) a manned unit. Ideally capable of say 6 ppl. Obviously up and down.

    Once fuel is made on the moon, then the fuel carriers can just remain behind and be a tanker.

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