NASA Human Landing System Program completes a critical milestone

The NASA Human Landing System Program has completed a key milestone in progress towards sending the first humans back to the moon since the Apollo era. The Human Landing System (HLS) has conducted its Certification Baseline Reviews with three US companies competing to provide Landers to deliver Artemis astronauts to the moon.

Due to the ongoing pandemic, all of the meetings were held virtually. Companies competing include Dynetics, SpaceX, and a team led by Blue Origin. The purpose of the Certification Baseline Reviews (CBR) is to finalize the functional and performance requirements for the landing systems the companies are working on. The meeting also confirmed lander development standards, established baseline designs, schedules, and management plans for contract execution.

NASA specified a concept of operations and high-level requirements and standards without dictating an approach or design requirement. The goal is to allow the competing companies to propose their designs and represents a change from NASA's usual mode of operation, where it presents highly detailed specifications for building spacecraft hardware. NASA says the changes because it wants to be as open as possible in its procurement approach.

Companies provided NASA with development and testing schedules, identify their top risks, and provided plans for safety and Mission assurance, verification, validation, and certification. CBR is part of the base period. For all three contracts, the base period runs from May 2020 through February 2021, meaning it's about halfway over.

Dr. Lisa Watson-Morgan says that the CBR is part of the base period for the contracts and since the contracts are firm-fixed-price, coming to an agreement upfront about how contractors will proceed is critical. NASA is also currently running a concurrent active federal procurement for the next phase of development. Option A will determine which design or designs will be selected to continue development to flight. During that period, only the contractors having passed CBR will be able to offer equipment.