- a proposal for America’s space program during the current administration -


United Launch Alliance (ULA) and Masten Space Systems have developed concepts for the development of a full-scale lunar lander by modifying a cryogenic, Centaur upper stage so that it could be a lander which could land, belly down, on the lunar surface. The advantage to this approach is that the Centaur is a highly-flown stage with its RL-10 engine having flown many times including in-space restarts. Such a full-scale lunar lander could therefore be developed fairly rapidly and at reduced cost because it wouldn't have to be developed from scratch. Using liquid hydrogen and oxygen, it would be the perfect choice for a transportation architecture throughout the space between LEO and the Moon because the Moon with its water ice could supply the propellant needed to refuel it.

Masten Space Systems is a relatively small company which, none-the-less is the leader in small-scale vertical take off - vertical landing rocket modules. The work that they do is amazing! ULA has lent a couple of Centaur upper stages to Masten Space Systems in the hope that they would attach four vertical modules onto the large Centaur tank and develop it to the point where it would demonstrate the full propulsive maneuvers required for a terminal lunar landing. Dave Masten has indicated that it would take only 1.5 to 2 years and only about $20 million to pull off the terrestrial demonstration of a full-scale Xeus lander flying over the skies of Mojave. If NASA were to fund this Terrestrial Demonstrator, it would go far to convince all that we really could send full-scale lunar landers to the Moon in the near-term and in a very cost-effective manner.

It is estimated that the development of the launch-ready lunar lander shouldn't take more than $200 million to develop. This is half of what it cost to develop the Falcon 9 rocket which was developed for about 1/8th the cost had it been done using the traditional NASA contracting approach (cost plus). Yet it makes sense that the Xeus should cost less than the Falcon 9. The RL-10 engine is already developed and well proved. The Xeus wouldn't have to undergo the staging nor the same maximum aerodynamic pressures of the Falcon 9.

We can have a cost-effective, full-scale lunar lander soon.

Next: Telerobots