Author Topic: Blue Moon Lunar Lander  (Read 15116 times)

Offline sanman

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Blue Moon Lunar Lander
« on: 03/03/2017 10:05 PM »
As part of Blue Origin's proposal to deliver supplies to the Moon for paying customers, founder Jeff Bezos mentioned a  lunar lander vehicle known as Blue Moon, which would ferry goods to the surface.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/bluesky/technology/ct-bezos-amazon-moon-20170303-story.html


What are the likely specifications of this vehicle? What propulsion will it use?
In his AvWeek talk, Bezos mentions upper-stage/vacuum version of the BE-3 liquid-H2 engine -- so will that be used on the lander? I thought you want a low-volatility fuel that doesn't boil off in transit.
Bezos also mentions possibly flying on SLS or Atlas-V -- what kind of mass envelope does that impose on the lander?

If unmanned flights/deliveries to the lunar surface are used to man-rate the vehicle for later manned flights, then what kinds of unmanned payloads would be sent to the Moon? Robot rovers mainly?
What might be the limits on the mass-return capability?
Does this require an Apollo-style design architecture?

(Hey, that name sounds familiar - should've taken out a trademark on it)  ;)
« Last Edit: 03/03/2017 11:19 PM by sanman »

Offline sdsds

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Re: Blue Moon Lunar Lander
« Reply #1 on: 03/04/2017 01:28 AM »
For crewed lunar landings experience (which is to say, Apollo) indicates a solution can be achieved by dividing the descent into two phases: a braking burn (which utilizes quite a bit of thrust) and a hovering touch down which requires relatively little thrust.The Lunar Module Descent Engine operated in two distinct thrust regimes for this very reason.

But of course more recent experience with vertical rocket landings on Earth (F9, New Shepard) suggest a different approach might be possible on the Moon as well, i.le. don't bother with hovering, just hoverslam onto the surface.

I think the wording Bezos used suggests he might be thinking the new approach might work on the Moon as well. Do others read him that way?
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Offline Jimmy Murdok

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Re: Blue Moon Lunar Lander
« Reply #2 on: 03/04/2017 02:17 AM »
SLS and Orion will only shine if there is an attractive lunar project. A lander is a must that NASA needs, it's time to find funds for a lunar lander private challenge, there is a coral of private companies with interesting projects, hardware and funds waiting for a plan leaded by NASA were they can put everything on place. Selling Mars by mid 30's is not appealing.

There are several robot size landers on it's way, concepts from Boeing-Masten and Blue for human sized ones, Bigelow, 3 capsules, low cost cargo capacities... connect the dots and build a South Pole public-private architecture that does not break the bank. That would put NASA back on track roviding leadership and a clear objective for the big rocket and Orion.
« Last Edit: 03/04/2017 09:46 AM by Jimmy Murdok »

Offline TrevorMonty

Re: Blue Moon Lunar Lander
« Reply #3 on: 03/04/2017 09:40 AM »
The Atlas may not be ideal LV for it but does allow it fly before 2020. With NG or Vulcan it would be capable of 5t, use a SLS and it could be 10t.

Use lander as solar power station, have solar panels similar to Cygnus deploy from top and track sun. With robotic arm payloads can be winched to surface. For ice mining the tanks could be used for storing extracted water until LH/LOX processing plant is landed.

Refuel at DSH and it could be used as crew lander, surface access may require winched platform.

The best thing about this lander is that is based on flight proven vehicle and company has money to make it happen.

Edit.
After bit more thought I've realised they will need a whole new control system. The NS control surfaces will need to be replaced with small engines or gas thrusters.
« Last Edit: 03/04/2017 02:53 PM by TrevorMonty »

Offline sanman

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Re: Blue Moon Lunar Lander
« Reply #4 on: 03/04/2017 05:43 PM »
When I think of a lunar lander, I think of something that looks non-aerodynamic, like the Apollo's LEM or Constellation's Altair, whereas New Shepard is of course aerodynamic as it's made for Earthly suborbital flights.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2017/03/02/an-exclusive-look-at-jeff-bezos-plan-to-set-up-amazon-like-delivery-for-future-human-settlement-of-the-moon/

Quote
Last year, Blue Origin successfully launched and landed its suborbital rocket, the New Shepard, five times within less than a year, flying just past the 62-mile edge of space and then landing vertically on a landing pad at the companyís West Texas facility.

That same technology could be used to land the Blue Moon vehicle on the lunar surface, the company said. Its white paper shows what looks like a modified New Shepard rocket, standing on the moon with an American flag, a NASA logo and Blue Originís feather symbol.

So I assume that's just a symbolic representation of the Blue Moon lunar lander, and not an actual representation of what it's supposed to look like. We're not able to see the actual white paper or that image, but anything that looks vaguely like New Shepard sounds like it's mainly optimized for Earthly aerodynamic flight, rather than for lunar flight. There's no need for fin-ring or tall-and-skinny design as compared to the classical lander shape.

Besides, I thought people here argued that New Shepard was mainly a pathfinder design.

Offline sanman

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Re: Blue Moon Lunar Lander
« Reply #5 on: 03/06/2017 07:39 PM »
From the Av Week article posted by Navier-Stokes:

http://www.aviationweek.com/space/blue-origin-developing-10000-lb-lunar-polar-lander

Quote
The New Shepard, set to begin flying humans this year, is the basis for the Blue Moon concept, Bezos said. Its BE-3U upper stage engine, a high-altitude variant of the hydrogen-fueled BE-3 that took the first New Shepard booster to space five times in 2016 without a change-out, would send the lander into its trans-lunar injection trajectory. It would retain enough capability after that to begin slowing the vehicle toward its target on the lunar surface, he said.

Like New Shepard, Blue Moon would land tail-down, braking with retropropulsion from a set of 11,000-lb.-thrust liquid oxygen/methane engines already in development at Blue Originís Kent, Washington, facility, Bezos said.

So why is it using Methalox for the landing thrusters, instead of Hydrolox all the way? Is it because the Methalox suffers from less boiloff compared to Hydrolox? Are there any other reasons? I don't think there's any way to harvest Methane from the lunar surface, is there?

Online AncientU

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Re: Blue Moon Lunar Lander
« Reply #6 on: 03/06/2017 07:47 PM »
Methlox seems to be the easiest cryo propellant.
Commonality with other designs, too.
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Offline TrevorMonty

Re: Blue Moon Lunar Lander
« Reply #7 on: 03/06/2017 10:51 PM »
From the Av Week article posted by Navier-Stokes:

http://www.aviationweek.com/space/blue-origin-developing-10000-lb-lunar-polar-lander

Quote
The New Shepard, set to begin flying humans this year, is the basis for the Blue Moon concept, Bezos said. Its BE-3U upper stage engine, a high-altitude variant of the hydrogen-fueled BE-3 that took the first New Shepard booster to space five times in 2016 without a change-out, would send the lander into its trans-lunar injection trajectory. It would retain enough capability after that to begin slowing the vehicle toward its target on the lunar surface, he said.

Like New Shepard, Blue Moon would land tail-down, braking with retropropulsion from a set of 11,000-lb.-thrust liquid oxygen/methane engines already in development at Blue Originís Kent, Washington, facility, Bezos said.

So why is it using Methalox for the landing thrusters, instead of Hydrolox all the way? Is it because the Methalox suffers from less boiloff compared to Hydrolox? Are there any other reasons? I don't think there's any way to harvest Methane from the lunar surface, is there?

The BE3U will do the TLI and de orbit burn, doubt it would throttle low enough for lunar landing. They needed smaller engines for landing, plus these engines could be used to hover for last minute course changes. Being Methane means they could be used in 2nd stage of NG for orbital maneuvers and maybe for landing in future. Wouldn't be surprised if these methane engines are a spin off of BE4 development.

As for harvesting Methane, these landers are destined for a one way trip, at least until water is being harvested and processed into fuel. Which is quite a few years and cargo landers away.

Online AncientU

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Re: Blue Moon Lunar Lander
« Reply #8 on: 03/06/2017 11:13 PM »
From the Av Week article posted by Navier-Stokes:

http://www.aviationweek.com/space/blue-origin-developing-10000-lb-lunar-polar-lander

Quote
The New Shepard, set to begin flying humans this year, is the basis for the Blue Moon concept, Bezos said. Its BE-3U upper stage engine, a high-altitude variant of the hydrogen-fueled BE-3 that took the first New Shepard booster to space five times in 2016 without a change-out, would send the lander into its trans-lunar injection trajectory. It would retain enough capability after that to begin slowing the vehicle toward its target on the lunar surface, he said.

Like New Shepard, Blue Moon would land tail-down, braking with retropropulsion from a set of 11,000-lb.-thrust liquid oxygen/methane engines already in development at Blue Originís Kent, Washington, facility, Bezos said.

So why is it using Methalox for the landing thrusters, instead of Hydrolox all the way? Is it because the Methalox suffers from less boiloff compared to Hydrolox? Are there any other reasons? I don't think there's any way to harvest Methane from the lunar surface, is there?

The BE3U will do the TLI and de orbit burn, doubt it would throttle low enough for lunar landing. They needed smaller engines for landing, plus these engines could be used to hover for last minute course changes. Being Methane means they could be used in 2nd stage of NG for orbital maneuvers and maybe for landing in future. Wouldn't be surprised if these methane engines are a spin off of BE4 development.

As for harvesting Methane, these landers are destined for a one way trip, at least until water is being harvested and processed into fuel. Which is quite a few years and cargo landers away.

BE-4 engines are 500klbf staged combustion engines (50x larger and much too complex for a lander).
BE-3 are 10x larger and simpler (though hydrolox)... if anything, a BE-3 derivative. 

More likely is pressure-fed or pump-fed, simple engines.
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Offline GWH

Re: Blue Moon Lunar Lander
« Reply #9 on: 03/07/2017 04:22 PM »
So why is it using Methalox for the landing thrusters, instead of Hydrolox all the way? Is it because the Methalox suffers from less boiloff compared to Hydrolox? Are there any other reasons? I don't think there's any way to harvest Methane from the lunar surface, is there?
BE-4 engines are 500klbf staged combustion engines (50x larger and much too complex for a lander).
BE-3 are 10x larger and simpler (though hydrolox)... if anything, a BE-3 derivative. 

More likely is pressure-fed or pump-fed, simple engines.

I'm thinking the thrusters are actually being developed for New Glenn booster and 2nd stage RCS.  Makes sense for those to be methalox.

Online AncientU

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Re: Blue Moon Lunar Lander
« Reply #10 on: 03/07/2017 04:32 PM »
So why is it using Methalox for the landing thrusters, instead of Hydrolox all the way? Is it because the Methalox suffers from less boiloff compared to Hydrolox? Are there any other reasons? I don't think there's any way to harvest Methane from the lunar surface, is there?
BE-4 engines are 500klbf staged combustion engines (50x larger and much too complex for a lander).
BE-3 are 10x larger and simpler (though hydrolox)... if anything, a BE-3 derivative. 

More likely is pressure-fed or pump-fed, simple engines.

I'm thinking the thrusters are actually being developed for New Glenn booster and 2nd stage RCS.  Makes sense for those to be methalox.

Second stage control should be much smaller thrusters.  Draco thrusters are <100lbf.

First stage could use larger thrusters -- quite a mass to reorient for reentry, but wouldn't need to be quick unless they are considering RTLS.  A single superdraco is 16,000 lbf, so about the right category for the lander; still might be too big for attitude control.

Whatever thrusters are used, it they are methlox, thumbs up!
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Offline GWH

Re: Blue Moon Lunar Lander
« Reply #11 on: 03/07/2017 04:37 PM »
You're right I misread that the landing thrusters are 11,000 lbf. 

Offline Space Ghost 1962

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Re: Blue Moon Lunar Lander
« Reply #12 on: 03/07/2017 06:48 PM »
Engines are a big deal, they take forever to develop, you need to use them broadly/extensively to recover investment/support/continuity, and you are constantly improving them. So you don't do many different kinds of them. Note that the two stage NG, like FH/F9, basically use just one base engine.

BO's lander uses a BE-3 derivative (likely an overexpanded BE-3U), because he has the engine, he wants hydrolox in-space propulsion efficiencies. Now, if you build such a lander, it will scale to a huge landed drymass - likely the biggest lander only short of the ITS/BFS enormity.

Such a single engine lander would likely be used for cargo, because of reliability concerns. It could eventually be extremely cost effective, if you could bring down the cost of hydrolox infrastructure end to end. Something ULA has some experience with. To do that you'd also need demand, much like the demand for F9R payloads to support a reusable booster.

We don't see a radical growth in the number of payloads to space. Since Apollo, we've had less than 10 payloads to the moon, compared to hundreds to a thousand of other payloads.

So it's likely to assume that the business revenue of such a lander will take decades to develop, after the first lander lands ... once anew.


Offline TrevorMonty

Re: Blue Moon Lunar Lander
« Reply #13 on: 03/07/2017 06:50 PM »
So why is it using Methalox for the landing thrusters, instead of Hydrolox all the way? Is it because the Methalox suffers from less boiloff compared to Hydrolox? Are there any other reasons? I don't think there's any way to harvest Methane from the lunar surface, is there?
BE-4 engines are 500klbf staged combustion engines (50x larger and much too complex for a lander).
BE-3 are 10x larger and simpler (though hydrolox)... if anything, a BE-3 derivative. 

More likely is pressure-fed or pump-fed, simple engines.

I'm thinking the thrusters are actually being developed for New Glenn booster and 2nd stage RCS.  Makes sense for those to be methalox.

Second stage control should be much smaller thrusters.  Draco thrusters are <100lbf.

First stage could use larger thrusters -- quite a mass to reorient for reentry, but wouldn't need to be quick unless they are considering RTLS.  A single superdraco is 16,000 lbf, so about the right category for the lander; still might be too big for attitude control.

Whatever thrusters are used, it they are methlox, thumbs up!
2nd stage landing engines most likely.
« Last Edit: 03/07/2017 06:50 PM by TrevorMonty »

Offline savuporo

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Re: Blue Moon Lunar Lander
« Reply #14 on: 03/07/2017 06:59 PM »
What propulsion will it use?
Not a pump-fed engine. Or an electric pump, perhaps.
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Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Blue Moon Lunar Lander
« Reply #15 on: 03/08/2017 11:01 AM »
What propulsion will it use?
Not a pump-fed engine. Or an electric pump, perhaps.
And why NOT pump-fed? Smaller pumpfed engines have been developed. The Fregat stage is pumpfed but half the thrust. Do you have any evidence that it's not pump-fed? If it's just your opinion, say so. Don't state it as if it's a fact.
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Offline daveklingler

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Re: Blue Moon Lunar Lander
« Reply #16 on: 03/08/2017 10:27 PM »
What propulsion will it use?
Not a pump-fed engine. Or an electric pump, perhaps.
And why NOT pump-fed? Smaller pumpfed engines have been developed. The Fregat stage is pumpfed but half the thrust. Do you have any evidence that it's not pump-fed? If it's just your opinion, say so. Don't state it as if it's a fact.

I don't have any evidence, but I'm going to guess a pressure-fed, clean-sheet design based on a need for simplicity.  I don't see any way this engine could be derived from either the BE-3 or BE-4, so I think it's new. 

If it turns out not to be pressure fed, I'll go with expander cycle, because I can easily see how they'd consider a methalox expander cycle engine of that size to be very useful.  There's been a lot of interest in methalox expander cycle engines of late, and it's entirely possible one or more of the researchers ended up at Blue.

edit - I think this is a pretty interesting bit of news all by itself.  Blue has another new engine.
« Last Edit: 03/08/2017 10:30 PM by daveklingler »

Offline sanman

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Re: Blue Moon Lunar Lander
« Reply #17 on: 03/09/2017 12:07 PM »
So again from the same AvWeek article:

http://aviationweek.com/space/blue-origin-developing-10000-lb-lunar-polar-lander

Quote
The lander would be ďlaunch-vehicle agnostic,Ē able to lift off from Earth on NASAís heavy-lift Space Launch System (SLS), the United Launch Alliance Atlas V; the reusable New Glenn orbital launcher Blue Origin is developing, and even the Falcon Heavy under development by reusable-launch rival SpaceX.

Bezos said the landerís payload would be scalable, with an SLS launch enabling 10,000 lb. to the lunar surface and smaller payloads on less capable launchers achieved by reducing the propellant load and number of descent engines.

He says the lander mass would be scalable by reducing number of engines and propellant load, in order to match the payload requirements. So if Blue Moon travels on SLS, the overall mass envelope would be 10,000 lbs - both lander and payload would have to fit within that. What kind of mass envelopes are possible with the other launchers mentioned?


Offline savuporo

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Re: Blue Moon Lunar Lander
« Reply #18 on: 03/09/2017 11:15 PM »
What propulsion will it use?
Not a pump-fed engine. Or an electric pump, perhaps.
And why NOT pump-fed? Smaller pumpfed engines have been developed. The Fregat stage is pumpfed but half the thrust. Do you have any evidence that it's not pump-fed? If it's just your opinion, say so. Don't state it as if it's a fact.

Because going pump fed from no deep space flight heritage is simply infeasible, considering it hasn't been done before.
State of the art of deep space main engines is still hypergolic, pressure fed.
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Offline TrevorMonty

Re: Blue Moon Lunar Lander
« Reply #19 on: 03/09/2017 11:47 PM »
If Be3 is doing deorbit burn then pressure feed should be fine for landing engines. These landers are not meant to fly again.

Blue must have a long term use for them, the most obvious is for storing extracted water. Maybe habitats.