NASA has awarded SpaceX as the first provider of space-based cargo to deliver experiment materials and supplies to its lunar Gateway, the agency declared Friday. This means SpaceX will be among the firms that NASA can shift to when it needs things shuttled by way of spaceship between Earth and this upcoming platform, which will orbit the Moon and provide a staging ground for future crewed Moon missions.
The contract implies that SpaceX will play a vital role in not only NASA’s future Artemis Moon missions, which will ultimately search to establish an everlasting scientific human lunar presence; however, it also can be involved as NASA begins to work toward extending its reach to Mars, as well. NASA plans to launch multiple cargo supply expeditions to the Gateway, which has yet to be built, with spacecraft engineered to go to the station and remain there for between six and 12 months at a time.
The total worth of these contracts will top out at a maximum of $7 billion for the whole deal, with a guaranteed minimum of two missions per provider. Different suppliers will be chosen; however, SpaceX is the first firm to be elected by NASA under the contract. SpaceX is already awarded by NASA to ship regular supply runs to the International Space Station (ISS) in Earth orbit using its Dragon cargo spacecraft.
SpaceX will be launching a new model of its Dragon spacecraft called the “Dragon XL” with a purpose to support these missions, and they’ll be able to carry over five metric tons to the Moon-orbiting station. They’ll use SpaceX’s existing Falcon Heavy craft to launch from Earth for the trip.