Dynetics Confirms HLS Proposal for NASA’s Artemis Program

Dynetics Confirms HLS Proposal for NASA’s Artemis Program

Dynetics confirms that it is one of the companies bidding for a NASA Human Landing System (HLS) contract to land astronauts on the Moon by 2024.  The news broke last week during a Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) media teleconference where a SNC representative disclosed that SNC is teaming with Dynetics on the proposal.

As part of its Artemis Moon landing program, NASA plans to purchase services from companies to ferry astronauts from a small space station in lunar orbit, Gateway, to the Moon’s surface and back.  These Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) will be used by NASA instead of procuring the landers themselves through traditional government contracting methods.  The companies will design, develop, build, and launch the landers to Gateway and own them.  The concept is similar to the commercial crew program where SpaceX and Boeing are building systems to take astronauts to and from the International Space Station in Earth orbit.

With only 5 years to meet the White House’s directive to land people on the Moon by 2024, the end of a second Trump term assuming he wins reelection, NASA hopes this PPP model will mean the landers are ready sooner and at less cost to the taxpayer than the more common cost-plus contracts used for the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion, for example.  Until March 26, 2019, NASA was planning to return astronauts to the Moon in 2028. The four-year acceleration is challenging.

Bids were due to NASA on November 5, 2019.  Boeing and a team led by Blue Origin revealed the outlines of their proposals around that time.  Dynetics is the third to go public.  SpaceX also is thought to be one of the bidders, although the company has not confirmed that.

Last week, SNC Vice President of Business Development for Space Systems John Roth mentioned that SNC is part of the Dynetics HLS team during a telecon updating the media on a variety of SNC space activities. Dynetics then began making some information available.

Dynetics spokesperson Kristina Hendrix told SpacePolicyOnline.com today that the company submitted a proposal, but declined to give specifics.

We have put together a very impressive team of experienced small and mid-sized companies that bring a wide range of experience in NASA, DoD and Commercial space programs from around the country. Sierra Nevada is one of those team members. We do not discuss the details of our offering during an active procurement. — Kristina Hendrix, Dynetics

She provided an illustration of its lander concept, but no other details.

Illustration of Dynetics’ Human Landing System concept for NASA”s Artemis program. Credit: Dynetics

NASA received only $600 million of the $1.4 billion requested for HLS in FY2020 ($363 million in its March 11, 2019 request and $1.045 billion in the May 13 supplemental).  NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine wants to award several contracts, with a downselect to two companies later on to develop systems in parallel, again similar to the commercial crew program.  How far it will be able to go with that level of funding remains to be seen.

The Trump Administration plans to submit its FY2021 budget request to Congress on February 10.  It is supposed to include not only the request for FY2021, but a projection for the subsequent 4 years, which should give insight into how much the landers and other components of the Artemis mission will cost.  While Congress continues to strongly support the SLS and Orion programs to take astronauts beyond Earth orbit for the first time since the Apollo program, and human spaceflight in general, the reaction to accelerating the lunar landing from 2028 to 2024 has been lukewarm at best.

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