Blue Origin tops the list for NASA’s Space Exploration program contract

Blue Origin and 13 other companies to partner NASA for space exploration program.

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On September 27, NASA announces the monetary award of $43.2 million to 14 companies to develop technology for space exploration. Among them Blue Origin and SpaceX tops the list. 

The award is the fourth in its series of “Tipping Point” contracts from NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate. These 14 companies will also have to contribute through their own funds to the projects with a minimum percentage depending upon the capabilities of the company.

“Tipping Point” contract

It is a part of NASA’s long term space exploration program that support work for up to three years on technologies ranging from propellant production to avionics. These investments by NASA works as external push for the companies whose technology are at a Tipping Point. It significantly matures the technology and increase the likelihood of infusion into a commercial space application. The whole process is based on the concept of Public-Private Partnership (PPP). It combines NASA resources with an industrial contribution of at least 25% of the program costs.

A rover based on Cryogenic engines. A concept of Blue origin

Blue origin was awarded with the highest monetary benefits. The company received $10 million for developing Cryogenic engines for landers and Rovers. Basically this technology will liquify and store hydrogen & Oxygen. Further these stored elements will be used as fuel by the Landers and Rovers on the surface of the Moon and Mars. According to NASA, this technology can be used on a propellant production plant on the moon, converting the ice found there into liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen for use by lunar landers.

SpaceX received the monetary benefit of $3 million. The company will join hands with NASA for its Marshall Space Flight Center on “coupler prototypes” for in-space refueling. Earlier this year SpaceX talked about in-space refueling by sending tankers from Earth.

Three companies received contact to showcase satellite propulsion technologies for cubesats. Accion Systems won $3.9 million to develop thrusters with the same performance as cold-gas thrusters with the help of ion electrospray thrusters. CU Aerospace received $1.7 million award to fly cubesat with two different propulsion systems. ExoTerra Resource received $2 million for featuring a high-impulse solar-electric propulsion system on a cubesat.

Other than “Tipping Point”, earlier this year NASA has also given contract to 13 countries to develop technologies in the field of Navigation, fuel cells and high-temperature materials for engine nozzles. These initiatives will not only help NASA, but will also help other countries by the insights from space study.