Blue Origin seeking NASA support for cislunar cargo transport

A Rocket like Blue Origin's "New Glenn" could be used to shuttle a cargo transport spacecraft between Earth and the moon.

A Rocket like Blue Origin’s “New Glenn” could be used to shuttle a cargo transport spacecraft between Earth and the Moon.

Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos’ aerospace research and development company, reportedly sent a seven-page proposal to leaders at NASA describing its interest in supporting “future human settlement” on the moon with a cargo space craft it hopes to develop. A copy of the white paper was picked up and verified by The Washington Post, (which Bezos also happens to own).

Manned-missions to space have been infrequent in recent years, and Blue Origin sees logistics improvements as a major enabler to future missions. According to the proposal, Blue Origin’s “Blue Moon” spacecraft would carry an equipment and supply payload of around 4.5 tonnes in advance of human missions to the moon’s south pole. The machinery on board would enable humans to generate solar electricity, and to produce hydrogen jet fuel from nearby water sources. Blue Moon could also be used to shuttle samples back to research labs on Earth.

To get to the moon, Blue Origin’s spacecraft would either attach to its own-developed rocket, or to one produced by another company, like the United Launch Alliance (ULA). The main aim of the United Launch Alliance, a 50/50 joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, is to provide “cost-efficient access to space for U.S. government missions.” Since the company’s founding in 2016, many of ULA’s activities have involved launching satellites for the US Air Force, but the company has also worked with NASA, the Department of Defense and other organizations and who knows, maybe Blue Origin.

Blue Origin says it could be ready to launch cargo to the moon by 2020, pending NASA support. For now, here are a few highlights from this week’s launch of ULA’s Atlas V rocket carrying a payload for the National Reconnaissance Office:

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