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NASA awards contracts for lunar lander study

NASA has awarded a total of $1.5 million in contracts to five companies for a 210-day independent evaluation of NASA's in-house lunar lander design concept that delivers four astronauts to the Moon's surface.

NASA's concept, developed by its Johnson Space Center-based Altair project office, is currently the 711-A, which is described as a "minimum functional" design that has three variants for sortie, cargo and crewed outpost missions.

With a 45,000kg (99,000lb) target mass, bounded by its Ares V cargo launch vehicle booster's expected capablities, the lander uses: the Low Impact Docking System a single liquid oxygen- and hydrogen-fuelled 18,600lb-thrust (82.7kN) Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne RL-10 derivative engine for the descent a single 5,500lb Monomethyl hydrazine, nitrogen tetroxide ascent engine and a cruciform truss structure to fit the Ares rocket's previous 8.4m (27.5ft) shroud, which is now 10m.

"These studies will provide valuable input for developing a sound set of requirements," said NASA's Constellation programme manager Jeff Hanley.

The companies will propose safety improvements and recommend industry-government partnering arrangements. The contract winners are Seattle-based Andrews Space, Boeing, Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Northrop Grumman and Odyssey Space Research, located in Houston, Texas. The maximum award any of the companies has received is $350,000.

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