September 18, 2021

At the end of April, NASA is already planning the HLS awards

2 min read

According to NASA representatives, the organization is also preparing to make choices for its Human Landing System (HLS) software by the conclusion of next month despite the program’s decreased budget.¬† The “base period” awards granted to groups headed by Blue Origin, Dynetics, as well as SpaceX in 2020 April¬†are expected to expire on April 30. This deadline requires a 2-month extension to the deals concluded in January to allow NASA further time to review the applications submitted by certain companies for follow-on “Choice A” awards to finance the production and flight demos of their planned lunar landers.

Jody Singer, who serves as the director in charge of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, provided little details about the HLS program at a Space Transportation Association conference call on 26 March, citing the current “blackout time” as such Choice A proposals are assessed. Marshall is the HLS program’s lead hub. “The deals have been prolonged until April 30,” she added, “but downselects are already pending.” According to other NASA leaders, the organization expects to grant Option A awards to up to two out of the three firms, with a priority for two to retain competitiveness in the scheme.

Steve Jurczyk, the NASA Acting Administrator, stated in a March 17 interview that the organization planned to render awards by the close of April, but he implied that it could take a little longer. “We’re really aiming towards the end of April,” says the team. It may stretch into May,” he speculated. The HLS software demanded a two-month extension, according to Jurczyk, to allow it sufficient time to review the Option A initiatives. He stated, “They really wanted more time to do the job.” “When it comes to something this big and complicated, it usually takes a little longer.”

He said that the pause had little to do with the HLS program’s expenditure. In the fiscal year 2021, NASA obtained $850 million for HLS, around a quarter of its initial bid. “It was the evaluation’s uncertainty that got to me. He said, “The budget is a different debate.” The budget does not have an impact on the plan assessment, but it would have an effect on the HLS program’s ability to advance. The lower support for HLS relative to the proposal effectively ruled out the human lunar landing in the year 2024, the Trump administration’s target set two years earlier.

The Biden leadership has expressed support for the Artemis program but has been quiet about whether humanity will travel to the moon. This came a day after 11 Democratic senators urged the White House to offer HLS with “robust support.” The White House is set to issue an overview of its fiscal year 2022 budget plan this week, outlining discretionary funding goals at agencies, including NASA. Still, a complete budget proposal will not be published until May.

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