Press Release

Kennedy Partners with US Industry to Advance Moon, Mars Technology

By SpaceRef Editor
July 31, 2019
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As NASA prepares to land humans on the Moon by 2024 with the Artemis program, commercial companies are developing new technologies, working toward space ventures of their own and looking to NASA for assistance. NASA has selected 13 U.S. companies for 19 partnerships to mature industry-developed space technologies and help maintain American leadership in space. NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida is working with two of them. The public-private partnerships will advance the commercial space sector and help bring new capabilities to market that could benefit future NASA missions.

Kennedy’s Swamp Works will partner with SpaceX to advance their technology to vertically land large rockets on the Moon. This includes advancing models to assess engine plume interaction with lunar regolith.

“We are dedicated to developing technologies that will take us forward to the Moon and to Mars, and working with commercial partners such as SpaceX will make these missions possible,” said Rob Mueller, senior technologist for advanced projects development in Kennedy’s Exploration Research and Technology Programs. “Missions to the lunar surface present challenges from rocket engine plume effects as they interact with the regolith surface to eject high-velocity dust particles and rocks. To mitigate risk of damage to equipment during landings and takeoff, we’ll work on technologies such as launch and landing pads, and blast protection berms or walls to make operations on the Moon sustainable and safe for NASA and all of our partners. These types of risk mitigations become exponentially more important as landers increase in size, and Kennedy’s Swamp Works is at the forefront of developing new technological solutions for this based on related computer modeling tools and testing.”

The spaceport’s botanists will work with Lockheed Martin to test technologies and operations for autonomous in-space plant growth systems. Integrating robotics with plant systems could help NASA harvest plants on future platforms in deep space.

“My office has many examples of NASA engineers, scientists, interns and support contractors working with industry, such as earlier this year when we supported Lockheed Martin with Gateway evaluation testing,” said Bryan Onate, chief of the Life Sciences and Utilization Office at Kennedy. “Exploring beyond low-Earth orbit will require long-duration stays on the Moon and eventually Mars, meaning we are focused on providing plant growth systems that will supplement and sustain the crews’ nutrition and implement autonomous operations as required. So, we are excited to be taking part in this collaborative opportunity, which will develop new technology to enable future missions.”

The selections were made through NASA’s Announcement of Collaboration Opportunity(ACO) released in October 2018 by the Space Technology Mission Directorate. They will result in non-reimbursable Space Act Agreements between the companies and NASA. Through ACO, NASA helps reduce the development cost of technologies and accelerate the infusion of emerging commercial capabilities into space missions.

For more information about the full ACO selection, visit:

For more information about NASA’s investments in space technology, visit:

SpaceRef staff editor.