At one-sixth that of Earth, the unique gravity of the lunar surface is one of the many variable conditions that technologies bound for the Moon will need to perform well in. NASA will soon have more options for testing those innovations in lunar gravity thanks to a collaboration with Blue Origin to bring new testing capabilities to the company’s New Shepard reusable suborbital rocket system.
Currently, NASA can approximate the Moon’s gravity on parabolic flights and in centrifuges on suborbital vehicles – both invaluable options for maturing promising innovations. But these methods provide only seconds of lunar gravity exposure at a time or limit the payload size, compelling NASA to explore longer-duration and larger size options. Blue Origin’s new lunar gravity testing capability – projected to be available in late 2022 – is answering that need.