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Boeing proposes "fewest steps to the moon"

Boeing moon
The Integrated Human Lander System. Image: Boeing

Boeing has proposed using a rocket launcher to deliver an integrated lunar lander system to the lunar orbit as part of US plans to return to the moon under the Artemis program.

The aerospace giant says the approach reduces the complexity and risk of sending multiple elements into space on a number of launches and reduces the number of "mission-critical" events to five out of 11 it says are required by other strategies.

It says its integrated lander can also carry itself from the lunar orbit to the surface without an additional transfer stage or "space tug," further reducing launches and simplifying steps to successful landing.

READ: Boeing's Starliner passes crucial test.

"Using NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) Block 1B lift capability, we have developed a 'Fewest Steps to the Moon' approach that minimizes mission complexity while providing the safest and most direct path to the lunar surface," said Jim Chilton , senior vice president of Space and Launch for Boeing Defense, Space & Security.

US President Donald Trump issued a policy directive in 2017 directing NASA to return astronauts to the moon before heading to Mars.

The administration wants to land humans by 2024 and NASA has indicated it intends to land the first woman on the moon as part of the program.

Artemis has several components including the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway, a space station around the moon that will be accessed by the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle designed to take astronauts beyond the Earth orbit and capable of carrying up to six astronauts.

Several private companies, including Space X and Blue Origin, are also competing for the project.

Boeing proposes using the giant SLS rocket currently in production at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF), arguing it has "unmatched lift capability that builds on proven flight components".

This approach shortens development time and lowers risk, enabling NASA to safely land on the moon's surface by 2024, it says.

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Lift off from the lunar surface. Image: Boeing.

It argues the lander's flexible design allows for the fastest route to lunar flights while providing a robust platform that can miss NASA's full range of exploration missions.

The spacecraft will be able to dock with the Gateway lunar orbiter or directly with NASA's Orion to eliminate the need for additional spacecraft.

The aerospace giant is promising advances in design that include innovations in its engines, composites, and automated landing and rendezvous systems.

It says key technologies are based on its CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, which recently passed a crucial abortion test that will be fully demonstrated during a flight to the International Space Station scheduled for December.

Boeing has partnered with NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, Johnson Space Center, and Kennedy Space Center and says it will work closely with NASA to integrate, certify, and operate its system.

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