I saw this last night on Space.com – NASA picks SpaceX to fly cargo to moon-orbiting Gateway space station – Space.com: https://www.space.com/spacex-wins-cargo-contract-nasa-gateway-moon-station.html. Decided it was a good Space Saturdays post for this week.
Dragon XL will supply the Gateway.
SpaceX cargo craft will soon reach much farther out into the final frontier, if all goes according to plan.
The California-based company already flies cargo missions to and from the International Space Station (ISS) for NASA. Now, SpaceX has scored a contract to supply Gateway, the moon-orbiting space station that the agency aims to start building in 2022, agency officials announced Friday (March 27).
Gateway is a key part of NASA’s Artemis exploration program, which seeks to establish a sustainable, long-term human presence on and around the moon by the late 2020s. The small space station will serve as a jumping-off point for sorties, both crewed and uncrewed, to the lunar surface.
Related: What is NASA’s Artemis program?
SpaceX will help to keep the Gateway supplied, delivering scientific experiments and a variety of other gear to the outpost, NASA officials said. The company is guaranteed two missions under its newly announced Gateway Logistics Services contract.
SpaceX’s robotic ISS resupply runs employ the company’s Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule, which can loft 13,200 lbs. (6,000 kilograms, or 6 metric tons) to low-Earth orbit. But SpaceX’s Gateway missions will use different hardware: the huge Falcon Heavy rocket and a special capsule variant called Dragon XL. (SpaceX has also developed another Dragon version, Crew Dragon, which will fly astronauts to and from the ISS under yet another NASA contract.)
Dragon XL will be able to carry more than 5 metric tons of cargo to the Gateway, SpaceX representatives said via Twitter Friday.
“Returning to the moon and supporting future space exploration requires affordable delivery of significant amounts of cargo,” SpaceX president and chief operating officer Gwynne Shotwell said in a statement on Friday.
“Through our partnership with NASA, SpaceX has been delivering scientific research and critical supplies to the International Space Station since 2012, and we are honored to continue the work beyond Earth’s orbit and carry Artemis cargo to Gateway,” she added.
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