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Dynetics Lunar Lander Dependent Upon Fuel Depots, Multiple Vulcan Centaur Launches

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
September 17, 2020
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Artist concept of the Dynetics Human Landing System on the surface of the Moon. (Credits: Dynetics)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Dynetics’ proposed Human Landing System (HLS) depends upon fuel depots and multiple rocket launches to achieve NASA’s goal of landing two astronauts on the moon in 2024, officials said during a webinar earlier this week.

“Our lander is unique in that we need lunar fueling to accomplish our mission. In the next couple years, we will take in-space cryogenic propellant refueling technologies from the lab to [technology readiness level] 10 and operational,” said Kathy Laurini, payloads and commercialization lead for Dynetics’ HLS program.

Dynetics is in competition with SpaceX and a team led by Blue Origin to develop a lunar lander for NASA’s Artemis program. The space agency awarded development contracts to the three companies earlier this year.

Laurini said Dynetics’ mission would involve three launches of United Launch Alliance’s new Vulcan Centaur booster, which is set to make its maiden flight next year.

The first launch will carry the landing system, with the other two providing for the required fuel for the mission. The lander will dock with NASA’s Orion spacecraft or lunar Gateway, pick up two astronauts, and take them to the surface, Laurini said.

Dynetics believes the depot technology would enable it to develop mining operations on the surface for the production of liquid oxygen for use as fuel.

“These technologies will enable a cis-lunar fuel depot,” Laurini said. “We will be engaging partners to make them a reality. We’d like to be able to buy propellant from a commercial depot around the moon. It also serves other customers, such as other human or robotic landers.

“The ability to fill our liquid oxygen tanks on the lunar surface could enable new mission classes like hopping around to other parts around the moon to accomplish some key science objectives,” she added.

Beginning in 2026, Dynetics’ reusable lander would be able to take four crew members to the surface, Laurini said.

The company also plans to develop a reusable cargo version of the lander to deliver rovers and other equipment to the moon.