- policy recommendations for the current administration -


For many years, United Launch Alliance (ULA) has flown its Centaur upper stage with its hydrogen-oxygen RL-10 engine on its Atlas rockets. That upper stage is well-proven and safe. Several year ago some ULA engineers wrote a series of papers in which they envisioned modifying that upper stage to become a belly-down lunar lander. Depending upon which configuration it would be, it would be called either the XEUS Lander or the ACES Lander. The big advantage of using this approach to developing a lunar lander is that it could be quicker and cheaper to achieve because it would simply be the modification of an existing stage and engine rather than having to develop both from scratch.

Dave Masten of Masten Space Systems is well know in the aerospace world for developing vertical take-off, vertical landing rockets (VTVL). His company won the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge. ULA lent his company some old Centaur upper stages with the idea that he could make four copies of his VTVL rockets, attach them at each of the corners of the Centaur and create Terrestrial Demonstrator in which a full (human)-scale lander would be seen to be flying over the skies of Mojave, CA demonstrating the final landing sequence. Dave has publicly estimated that it would take only about $20 million and 1.5 to 2 years of development to do the demonstration. $20 Million represents only 1/1000th of NASA's budget for one year. This demonstration could have been done as long as about seven years ago.

But not only has the Terrestrial Demonstration not been done but ULA hasn't even submitted XEUS or ACES when NASA requested proposals for possible development funding for full-scale lunar landers. What gives? ULA itself is a bit of a strange company. The government allowed two competitors (Boeing and Lockheed Martin) to jointly create ULA in order to provide Department of Defense guaranteed launches even though they would only be a few each year. Although ULA is perfectly able to offer a cost-effective, nearest term, full-scale lander, it has been prevented from even offering this by its two parents. Boeing want to make sure that its Space Launch System has no competitors and Lockheed Martin has proposed an over-sized lunar lander which would only fit on an SLS. Yet America deserves the option to fund the development of the near-term, cost-effective XEUS lander.

It is here recommended that the current Administration not allow any option to be taken off the table by ULA. They should publicly insist that the XEUS/ACES be submitted an an option for funding.

The XEUS lander would be the quickest approach to a cost-effective, full-scale, reusable lunar lander.

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