NASA has decided to use its new generation SpaceX spacecraft, the Dragon cargo vehicle, to send cargo to the mini-space station it plans to build in the Orbit of the Moon. The vehicle will be launched with Falcon Heavy rockets.
For many years, the private sector has a signature in space missions performed by the states themselves. Although there are more than one company operating in this sector, the leading company for now is the SpaceX company of Elon Musk.
SpaceX, previously mentioned to work with NASA, has now managed to sign a new agreement. Accordingly, the company guaranteed to perform at least two cargo delivery tasks within the scope of Gateway Logistics Services.
SpaceX will perform at least two missions
Although neither SpaceX nor NASA has disclosed the details of the contract, it is known that the company will perform at least two tasks. Thus, SpaceX will undertake an important task for the first time in NASA’s Artemis mission.
The Artemis mission was launched last year by U.S. President Donald Trump to send an astronaut back to the Moon. Within the scope of the project, it is planned to retrace the satellite of our planet until 2024.
SpaceX will carry pressurized and non-pressurized cargoes during the mission with the vehicle named Dragon XL. In addition, the test equipment and other supply materials to be taken to the station will be delivered to the orbit by the vehicle. There, it will be placed in the station resembling an egg shape.
Dragon XL to be powered by Falcon Heavy
The Dragon XL vehicle to be used in the mission will be carried by SpaceX Falcon Heavy rockets. The launch will be from runway 39A at Kennedy Space Center. The first logistics tasks will begin in 2024.
NASA manager Jim Bridenstine said the station is very important for the Artemis mission. Bridenstine also stated that with this agreement, they have once again shown how determined they are to return to the Moon in a sustainable manner.
The Dragon XL vehicle will stay at the station for 6 to 12 months. The vehicle can be controlled remotely even if there are no people inside. According to SpaceX, 5 tons of cargo can be carried on this mission.
Cramped program arouses suspicion
Mark Wiese, Deep Space Logistics Officer from NASA, said they would use more than one carrier vehicle, but ultimately decided to sign a contract with one firm. Weise also stated that the vehicle will only transport material but will not be used to carry any sample back.
Although it is not a very remote possibility for NASA to go to the Moon in 2024, it is not easy to make it sustainable and it needs an intermediate station. While building a facility among the institution’s long-term plans, the compressed calendar offered by the Trump administration poses a major challenge.