NASA is still looking ahead to long-term goals of sending humans to the moon’s surface, despite the growing outbreak of new coronary pneumonia in the United States. Now they have set the pace for spaceX, the future logistics provider for transporting goods to the moon.
On March 27, NASA signed a new contract with Musk’s space exploration company, SpaceX, to designate SpaceX to transport cargo and supplies to NASA’s space station in lunar orbit.
The new contract is an important part of NASA’s “Artemis” program, which is scheduled to send a female astronaut to the moon in 2024. As part of the plan, NASA plans to build a space station in lunar orbit, called gateway. Like the space station, it can serve as a place for astronauts to work and train before they travel to the moon, and therefore need supplies and scientific laboratory equipment from time to time. SpaceX became the first company to do so.
Prior to that, SpaceX had experience shipping cargo to the International Space Station. SpaceX can load cargo into a Dragon spacecraft and launch it to the International Space Station with the help of a Falcon 9 rocket. But SpaceX says it will upgrade its capsule to deliver supplies to the moon.
An effect map of SpaceX’s Dragon XL cargo ship. In the image, the spacecraft is separated from the Falcon Heavy rocket and is on its way to the moon.
SpaceX is currently working on a new vehicle called Dragon XL. It is reported that this is a cylindrical white spacecraft, can be in the lunar orbit to the “gateway” space station to transport more than 5 tons of cargo. The Large Dragon spacecraft will be launched on SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket. Under the contract, the Dragon XL cargo ship can dock at the Gateway space station for six to 12 months during each flight.
“Returning to the moon and supporting future space exploration requires spacecraft capable of carrying large amounts of cargo transportation,” said Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s president and chief operating officer, in a statement. SpaceX has been providing scientific research and critical material to the International Space Station since 2012, and we are proud to continue our work beyond Earth orbit and plan to transport cargo. “
For NASA, SpaceX won’t be the only company offering space logistics. NASA plans to spend $7 billion on logistics for the lunar spacecraft, adding a freight supplier in the future and making sure they can provide at least two freight services, possibly for up to 12 years.
Of course, although the contract has been signed, but the variables are still very large. The biggest variable may come from whether NASA will build the “gateway” space station to the moon on schedule, and it remains to be seen whether NASA’s plan to return to the moon will be realized by 2024.