NASA just gave $44 million to 6 private companies — including Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin — to develop ‘tipping point’ space technologies

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NASA just awarded six private companies a total of $44 million.
The agency’s “Tipping Point” program is intended to help the commercial space industry push next-generation technologies over the finish line.
The projects awarded funding include new moon-landing systems and a method to recover expensive rocket engines.

NASA is doling out a total of $44 million in awards among six private companies, including Jeff Bezos’ secretive rocket company, Blue Origin.

The new contracts are part of the agency’s third “Tipping Point” competition and an ongoing push to commercialize space. The goal of the awards is to help companies take what NASA sees as exciting, almost-ready-to-debut devices and “tip” them over the finish line into commercial markets.

The money covers 10 distinct projects, including ways for robots to land on and explore the moon, a next-generation fuel cell to power deep-space missions, a deep-space propulsion system, and an inflatable shell that may one day help land people on Mars.

“These key technologies will support NASA’s science and human exploration missions in the future,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a press release.

The biggest winner of the competition was United Launch Alliance, formed by Boeing and Lockheed Martin. The aerospace company (which is about to launch NASA’s Parker Solar Probe to “touch” the sun) scooped up $13.9 million. Blue Origin, meanwhile, walked away with $13 million in contracts.

Here’s a quick look at the projects NASA picked:

The companies that won NASA ‘Tipping Point’ awards and how much

Astrobotic Technology, Inc.

Project: “Stand-Alone Sensor for High Precision Planetary Landing” ($10 million)
What it is: A “low-cost, reliable, high-performance, stand-alone” system to help Astrobotic, a former team in the Google Lunar X Prize competition (which ended without a winner), continue its work to land a commercial lunar spacecraft on the moon and perhaps elsewhere in the solar system.

Blue Origin

Project: “Advancing Sensor Suites to Enable Landing Anywhere on the Lunar Surface” ($3 million)
What it is: “This project will mature critical technologies that enable precision and soft landing on the moon,” Blue Origin says, such as detection systems for terrain and altitude. “The resulting sensor suite will enable precision landing anywhere on the lunar surface.”
Project: “Cryogenic Fluid Management-Enhanced Integrated Propulsion Testing for Robust Lander Services” ($10 million)
What it is: A propulsion system powered by ultra-cold liquid fuels for landing a robot on the moon.

Frontier Aerospace Corporation

Project: “Flight Qualification of the DSE, MON-25 MMH Rocket Engine” ($1.9 million)
What it is: A crucial test of a deep-space rocket that may help Astrobotic land its probe on the moon.

Paragon Space Development Coporation

Project: “Cryogenic Encapsulating Launch Shroud and Insulated Upper Stage” ($1.6 million)
What it is: A way to insulate a rocket’s ultra-cold cryogenic fuel tanks and protect them “from meteoroids and debris” in space.

Space Systems/Loral, LLC

Project: “High Efficiency 6kW Dual Mode Electric Propulsion Engine for Broad Mission Applications” ($2 million)
What it is: A new ion-powered engine that will provide “faster, more efficient, propulsive capabilities for future NASA missions.”
Project: “In-Space Xenon Transfer for Satellite, Servicer and Exploration Vehicle …read more

Source:: Business Insider – Tech

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