Blue Moon (spacecraft)

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Blue Moon (Mark 2)
ManufacturerBlue Origin, Boeing
Country of originUnited States
OperatorNASA, Blue Origin
ApplicationsCrewed and robotic reusable lunar landing
Spacecraft typeLunar lander
Launch mass>45 t (99,000 lb)[1]
Dry mass16 t (35,000 lb)[1]
Payload capacity20 t (44,000 lb) (cargo variant, reusable) 30 t (66,000 lb) (cargo variant, one-way)[2]
Crew capacity4
Design life30 days
Height16 m (52 ft)[1]
StatusIn development
Blue Moon (Mark 1)
ManufacturerBlue Origin
Country of originUnited States
OperatorBlue Origin
ApplicationsRobotic lunar landing
Spacecraft typeLunar lander
Payload capacityUp to 4,500 kg (9,900 lb)
StatusIn development

Blue Moon is a lunar lander intended to carry humans and cargo to the Moon, currently under development by a consortium led by Blue Origin and including Lockheed Martin, Draper, Boeing, Astrobotic, and Honeybee Robotics. Two versions of Blue Moon are under development: a robotic lander planned to land on the Moon in 2024,[3][4] and a larger human lander planned to land a crew of four astronauts on the lunar surface for the NASA Artemis V mission in 2029.[5]

Development of the smaller, uncrewed lander began in 2016 and was publicly revealed in 2017. It is planned to be capable of delivering up to 4,500 kilograms (9,900 lb) to the surface of the Moon.[6] The first projected mission for the craft was to have been a 2024 lunar south pole region landing, where it was proposed that a series of landings could be used to deliver the infrastructure for a Moon base.[3][4][7] Blue Moon Mark 1 also formed the basis of part of the Integrated Lander Vehicle, a proposal for a human lander, bid but not chosen for the Artemis HLS.

The human lander, referred to as Mark 2,[2] was chosen by NASA as the winner of the Sustaining Lunar Development contract in May 2023. It is the second human lunar lander under contract by NASA for the Artemis HLS program, alongside Starship HLS.[8] It is intended to carry up to 4 astronauts to the lunar surface for up to 30 days in a fully reusable configuration.[2] A cargo variant is also planned, capable of carrying a payload of up to 20 t (44,000 lb) to the surface of the moon in a reusable configuration or 30 t (66,000 lb) in a one-way mission.[1] The lander is designed to be paired with a space tug called the Cislunar Transporter, to be built by Lockheed Martin.[1] The Cislunar Transporter is to be fuelled in low Earth orbit before refuelling Blue Moon in a lunar near-rectilinear halo orbit. Both Blue Moon and the Cislunar Transporter are to be powered by liquid hydrogen fuel and liquid oxygen oxidizer. They are intended to make use of new cryogenic fluid management technologies currently under development, including those to enable long-term on-orbit storage of their cryogenic propellants.[9]


Robotic spacecraft[edit]

Design work on the robotic lander began in 2016.[10] The lander platform was first publicly revealed in March 2017,[6][11] with a lunar-surface-delivered payload capacity of 4,500 kilograms (10,000 lb)[6] at which time the first lunar landing mission was projected for 2020.[6][3] In April 2017, Blue Origin president Rob Meyerson stated that the lander could be launched by multiple launch vehicles, including Blue Origin's New Glenn, Atlas V, NASA's Space Launch System, or the Vulcan launch vehicle.[12][6] In a May 2018 interview, Blue Origin's CEO Jeff Bezos indicated that Blue Origin would build Blue Moon on its own, with private funding, but that the project's pace would increase with a partnership with a governmental space agency. Bezos mentioned Space Directive 1, which steered NASA towards pursuing lunar mission, and his support for the Moon Village concept, "a proposal promoted by European Space Agency head Jan Woerner for cooperation among countries and companies to cooperate... on lunar capabilities".[13]

In May 2019, Blue Origin unveiled a mockup of the Blue Moon lander at the Washington D.C. Convention Center and released specification details for the autonomous lander planned to land up to 6.5 tonnes (7.2 tons) on the Moon,[10] to be powered by a new Blue Origin-developed liquid oxygen/liquid hydrogen rocket engine called the BE-7.[10][14] Blue Moon-derived concepts aimed at carrying passengers to the Moon were also exhibited.[10] That July, NASA announced that Glenn Research Center and Johnson Space Center would engage in an partnership with Blue Origin to develop a fuel cell power system for the Blue Moon lander, in order to enable it to survive the two-week-long lunar night, during which time solar power is unavailable.[15]

Integrated Lander Vehicle[edit]

In October 2019, the National Team of Blue Origin, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper Laboratory announced that it would collaborate to create a proposal for the "Human Landing System" (HLS) for NASA's Artemis program.[16] Blue Origin was to serve as the primary contractor, with a variant of its Blue Moon Lunar Lander serving as the descent stage. Lockheed Martin would build the ascent stage, in part based on its Orion crew capsule. Northrop Grumman would build a transfer stage based on its Cygnus spacecraft . The lander was projected to launch on the Blue Origin New Glenn launch vehicle.[16] In April 2020, Blue Origin won a design contract of US$579 million from NASA to advance the design of a human lunar lander for the Artemis program during a 10-month period in 2020–21.[17][18][19] Contracted design work started in 2020 and continued into 2021, when NASA was to evaluate which contractors would be offered contracts for initial demonstration missions and select firms for development and maturation of lunar lander systems.[17][20] The ILV was aimed at landing NASA astronauts on the Moon as early as 2024,[18][20][17] following an uncrewed demonstrator that was to land on the Moon as early as 2023.[19] The ILV descent element was a variant of the Blue Moon lunar lander that Blue Origin had been working on for nearly three years by early 2020.[19] At the end of the year-long program, the ILV was not chosen for further development, NASA having selected instead selecting SpaceX's Starship HLS bid.[21] Although NASA had previously stated it wished to procure multiple Human Landing Systems, it only selected one lander design, citing budgetary limitations.[22]

Sustaining Lunar Development crewed lander[edit]

NASA bidding and contract[edit]

In May 2023, NASA selected Blue Moon as the second lander procured under the Artemis HLS program, under Appendix P of the NextSTEP-2 contracting structure, also known as Sustaining Lunar Development.[23] Blue Moon was proposed by a renewed National Team, with slightly different composition than that which had developed the Integrated Lander Vehicle.[9] The total value of the contract was approximately US$3.4 billion; Blue Origin stated that it was providing at least that amount of funding itself to the Blue Moon project.[24] Blue Moon had successfully competed with the Dynetics ALPACA for the contract; NASA stated that the lower cost and technical strengths of Blue Moon led to its selection.[25]

Planned missions[edit]

The contract entails a crewed lunar landing of up to 30 days following an uncrewed demonstration flight of the Blue Moon lander. This uncrewed flight is to be a full demonstration of the mission, including the lander's life support systems. The lander returning to near-rectilinear halo orbit after departing the Lunar surface.[25]

Blue Origin additionally stated during the source selection announcement that it would conduct uncrewed technology demonstration and risk reduction missions as early as 2024 and 2025.[24]

Blue Moon has been selected by NASA to fly the Artemis 5 mission, as an alternative to the Starship HLS flying the first two lunar landings.[26] Both vehicles are expected to continue regular transit to the lunar surface following Artemis 5.


Blue Origin is to lead the development of the lander itself, which is designed to fit in the 7 m (23 ft) payload fairing of the New Glenn launch vehicle, while Lockheed Martin would be responsible for providing a reusable space tug called the Cislunar Transporter.[27] Astrobotic is to provide a cargo accommodation system for Blue Moon, planned to be used for large payloads such as surface habitats or lunar rovers.[28] Boeing is to supply a docking system, Draper is to provide guidance, navigation, and control (GNC) technology, and Honeybee Robotics will be responsible for cargo delivery systems.[28]


A BE-3U LOX/Hydrogen rocket engine will be used to place the lander on a trans-lunar injection trajectory and to begin to decelerate the vehicle for its lunar surface landing. The lander will "land tail-down" using 49 kilonewtons (11,000 lbf) liquid oxygen/liquid hydrogen thrusters that were under development before April 2017.[6][12]

The lander will be powered by the BE-7 liquid oxygen/liquid hydrogen dual-expander engine.[29][14]

See also[edit]

  • New Glenn - intended launch vehicle of Blue Moon
  • Starship HLS - the other of two human lunar landers under contract for the Artemis Program


  1. ^ a b c d e Foust, Jeff (2023-05-19). "NASA selects Blue Origin to develop second Artemis lunar lander". SpaceNews. Retrieved 2023-05-19.
  2. ^ a b c "Once again, NASA leans into the future by picking an innovative lunar lander – Ars Technica". 2023-05-19. Retrieved 2023-05-19.
  3. ^ a b c Monica Hunter-Hart (7 April 2017). "Blue Origin is Still Going to the Moon, Even if Mars is Hip". inVerse.
  4. ^ a b Christian Davenport (2 March 2017). "An exclusive look at Jeff Bezos's plan to set up Amazon-like delivery for 'future human settlement' of the moon". The Washington Post.
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  7. ^ Alan Boyle (20 May 2017). "Jeff Bezos lays out his vision for city on the Moon, complete with robots". GeekWire.
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  9. ^ a b Davenport, Christian (2023-05-19). "Bezos's Blue Origin wins NASA contract to land astronauts on the moon". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2023-05-19.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
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  11. ^ Jay Bennett (6 March 2017). "Blue Origin Teases Cargo Spaceship for a Moon Base". Popular Mechanics.
  12. ^ a b Phillip Swarts (6 April 2017). "Blue Origin ready to support NASA lunar missions with Blue Moon". SpaceNews.
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  15. ^ "NASA Announces US Industry Partnerships to Advance Moon, Mars Technology" (Press release). NASA. 30 July 2019. Retrieved 30 July 2019.
  16. ^ a b Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin teams up with spacefaring heavyweights for human lunar lander design. Loren Grush, The Verge. 22 October 2019.
  17. ^ a b c Potter, Sean (30 April 2020). "NASA Names Companies to Develop Human Landers for Artemis Missions". NASA. Retrieved 12 June 2020.
  18. ^ a b Burghardt, Thomas (1 May 2020). "NASA Selects Blue Origin, Dynetics, and SpaceX Human Landers for Artemis". Retrieved 12 June 2020.
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  24. ^ a b "Blue Origin Team Wins NASA's Second HLS Contract". Retrieved 2023-05-20.
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  28. ^ a b "Astrobotic part of Blue Origin national team awarded $3.4 billion Artemis moon lander contract". 2023-05-23. Retrieved 2023-05-23.
  29. ^ "Jeff Bezos unveils lunar lander to take astronauts to the moon by 2024". CNBC. Retrieved 10 May 2019.

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