Boeing's lunar lander pitch promises 'fastest path' to the moon

NASA and Boeing Tested Starliner's Launch Abort System

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Boeing's integrated lander also can carry itself from lunar orbit to the surface without an additional transfer stage or "space tug", further reducing launches and simplifying the steps to a successful landing.

Boeing's design relies on NASA's exploration backbone, the SLS rocket now in production at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF).

Last month, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said he suspected that SpaceX would propose using its Starship super-spaceship as an integrated landing system for the Artemis moon program.

The company says its plan reduces the complexity involved in sending several different bits of hardware into space on multiple launches.

In this artist's conception, Boeing's Human Lander System heads into orbit on the strength of a Space Launch System rocket. Likewise, the crewed Apollo missions to the Moon in the 1960s and 70s required only one lift-off. For example, the lander elements are likely to be launched separately from the Orion capsule carrying crew.

Using the more powerful block 1B variant of the SLS, Boeing says a lunar landing can been carried out with just five "mission critical events" instead of almost a dozen required by competing designs that might require the use of Gateway and multiple launches with less-powerful commercial rockets.

Nasa previously said its preferred option was a lunar lander split into three stages, but it left the door open to "alternative, innovative approaches". The lander also doesn't require a separate transfer stage to maneuver from a near-rectilinear halo orbit to low lunar orbit, as some other designs have proposed. "The fewer launches and critical operations per mission, the higher the probability of mission success", he said, identifying "17 critical mission operations" required for a successful mission under NASA's baseline approach.

The more powerful block 1B variant of the SLS will allow the company to send the lander to space already fully assembled, eliminating the need for multiple flights.

He argued that NASA should focus on SLS, including the Block 1B version, and Orion spacecraft, as well as a payload shroud for the SLS that could accommodate a lunar lander. NASA announced October 16 that it was in talks with Boeing to award a long-term production contract for the SLS, but that the Block 1B would not enter service until the Artemis 4 mission in 2025.

Under NASA's current plans, though, the Block 1B version of SLS won't be ready in time for a 2024 landing.

This approach shortens development time and lowers risk, enabling NASA to safely land on the moon's surface by 2024, it says.

The Boeing lander would be able to dock with the Gateway, a planned space station in lunar orbit, but it would not require it.

Artemis has several components including the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway, a space station around the moon that would be accessed by the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle created to take astronauts beyond Earth orbit and capable of carrying up to six astronauts. Blue Origin announced its own take on a lander called "Blue Moon" - which it will develop in partnership with Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper - earlier this year. Blue Origin confirmed that its team, announced by company founder Jeff Bezos Oct. 22, had submitted a proposal to NASA by the November 5 deadline.

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