Featured Image Source: Left-NASA Astronaut Christina Koch/Right-TESMANIAN.com
NASA’s Artemis program targets to launch the first woman and next man to the lunar surface by 2024. The agency awarded SpaceX a contract to develop a Human Landing System to transport cargo and astronauts to the lunar surface. SpaceX proposed to develop a Starship Lunar Lander. “The SpaceX human lander design is a single-stage solution with Starship, their fully reusable launch and landing system designed for travel to the Moon, Mars and beyond,” former NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in 2020, “The proposal included an in-space propellant transfer demonstration and uncrewed test landing.”
SpaceX is developing Starship launch vehicle at the South Texas launch facility where stainless-steel prototypes are undergoing testing. TESMANIAN took a photograph of a lunar-optimized NASA Starship SpaceX is developing at the rocket assembly facility, shown above. A notable difference between the Mars Starship design versus the lunar-optimized Starship is that it does not feature the aerodynamic fins, nor an extra heat-shield coat like the Mars’ vehicle design. “A lunar optimized Starship can fly many times between the surface of the Moon and lunar orbit without flaps or heat shielding required for Earth return. With large habitable and storage volume, Starship is capable of delivering significant amounts of cargo for research and to support robust operations on the lunar surface to enable a sustainable Moonbase,” SpaceX stated.
This week, NASA astronauts visited SpaceX’s South Texas Launch Facility at Boca Chica Beach, along the border with Mexico. Astronaut Christina Koch shared a photograph via Instagram today (March 20) of her with crewmates that could one day launch to the Moon aboard Starship as part of the Artemis Program. In the photo she shared (linked below) they are posing in front of the 50-meter-tall Starship SN11 test vehicle at the launch pad. "Common goals, shared vision. NASA astronauts learning about the SpaceX Starship-one element in a growing worldwide field of deeper space exploration systems with sights on the moon and Mars," Koch wrote under the photograph. Starship SN11 is set to perform a high-altitude flight test next week. It will liftoff approximately 10-kilometers above Boca Chica Beach propelled by three Raptor engines, conduct an aerodynamic flight plus landing-flip-maneuver, and attempt a propulsive landing. Before the flight test, SpaceX will perform a static-fire test of the Raptor engines. The ignition test could happen as soon as Monday and a flight soon after (dates are subject to change).
About the Author
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.