NASA has just confirmed the signing of a major new contract with SpaceX. Owned by Elon Musk, the company has already been chosen as the lunar lander for the Artemis 3 mission. Preferred to the nose and beard of Jeff Bezos, SpaceX has just been selected again by NASA.
The American space agency explains in a press release that the second lunar landing will take place aboard a Starship, the vessel under development by SpaceX. “The objective of this work is to develop and demonstrate a Starship lunar lander that meets NASA sustainment requirements for missions beyond Artemis III” explains NASA in its speech.
SpaceX: NASA’s special partner
The American space agency is asking SpaceX to review the Starship plans so that the vessel is able to make the Moon-Earth trip (during Artemis 3) but also to ensure the Artemis 4 mission. SpaceX’s Crew Dragon vehicle (which shuttles between Earth and the ISS) SpaceX was asked to develop the function Starship so that it could hook onto Gateway on its journey.
With this new clause in its gargantuan contract, SpaceX should win the tidy sum of 4 billion dollars. With its participation in the Artemis 3 mission, Elon Musk’s company had already pocketed a trifle of 2.9 billion dollars, but it is now 1.15 billion that will be added to the total bill.
According to Paul Martin, NASA Inspector General, the two missions (Artemis 3 and Artemis 4) will take place between 2025 and 2027. If the Artemis program was to reach its peak in 2024 with Artemis 3, various delays have accumulated over the past few years. years and delayed the take-off date.
Two flights to the moon in 2026 and 2027?
Today the official program ensures an arrival on the Moon in 2025 but several voices within NASA are already leaning towards 2026. With this new schedule Artemis 4 should leave Earth at the end of 2027 before sending four astronauts to the surface of the Moon.
The calendar is constantly changing and many things will now depend on the success of the Artemis 1 mission which took off on November 16. For a few hours the Orion module has taken the direction of the Moon, it should go around it before returning to Earth, a crucial phase of the mission.
SpaceX for its part continues the development of its Starship. The spacecraft has been launched several times in the past, and a first flight into orbit should take place in the coming weeks. According to Elon Musk’s promises, take-off should take place in the coming days. A flight at the beginning of 2023 seems the most reasonable hypothesis.