NASA Seeks to Use Blue Origin’s Lunar Gravity Simulation Capability
NASA will utilize a reusable suborbital rocket system from Blue Origin to run lunar gravity tests on technologies bound for the Moon.
According to NASA, Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket will be upgraded to simulate the Moon’s gravity, with the new lunar gravity testing capability expected to be available in late 2022.
The rocket is envisioned to create an artificial gravity environment by rotating its capsule, which will then act as a large centrifuge exposing the payloads inside to simulated lunar gravity, NASA said.
Blue Origin is initially targeting 11 rotations per minute, equivalent to more than two minutes of continuous lunar gravity.
The capability promised by Blue Origin gives NASA longer-duration options for testing innovations in lunar gravity. Current methods such as parabolic flights provide only seconds of lunar gravity exposure.
Tests run on New Shepard will allow the space agency to de-risk innovations critical to advancing the Artemis program.
NASA is among the first customers lined up to use the future lunar gravity capability. Christopher Baker, program executive for the Flight Opportunities program at NASA, said a wide range of tools, including technologies for in-situ resource utilization, regolith mining and environmental control and life support systems, could benefit from testing in partial gravity.
Blue Origin has been involved in other efforts by NASA to move forward with its lunar surface exploration.
In December, NASA and Blue Origin conducted a live simulation of a landing at the Moon’s South Pole.
The simulation was made possible by the integration of NASA’s navigation software with Blue Origin’s lunar navigation system, called BlueNav-L. During the test, engineers were able to process images to identify the Moon’s geographical features in real-time, which helped provide an accurate estimate of the simulated lander’s position.
Tags: Blue Origin Christopher Baker lunar gravity NASA New Shepard space suborbital rocket system