November 21, 2019 • Evelyn J. Arevalo
SpaceX is one of five companies that were recently announced to deliver cargo for NASA. The company signed up via the agency's Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program, proposing to launch cargo with Starship and the Super Heavy rocket. These vehicles are currently in their initial phase of development.
The other four companies that became eligible for the CLPS program are: Blue Origin, Ceres Robotics, Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems, and Sierra Nevada Corp. Therefore, they are all competing for a lunar delivery services contract. A total of fourteen companies are currently eligible to propose to NASA, none guaranteed a CLPS mission.
Today, we’re announcing five new companies who are joining our #Artemis program & will be eligible to bid on deliveries to the surface of the Moon: @blueorigin, @ceres_robotics, @SierraNevCorp, @SpaceX & @TyvakNanoSat.— NASA (@NASA) November 18, 2019
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NASA views the CLPS program as a stepping stone for their Artemis mission, that aims to put the first astronaut woman plus crew on the moon by 2024, then establish a long-term lunar base by 2028. So they are looking for the best technology and aerospace company to achieve it.
On November 18th during a NASA teleconference, the SpaceX president and chief operating officer, Gwynne Shotwell stated:
"We are aiming to be able to drop Starship on the lunar surface in 2022."
If the development of Starship goes as they plan, the vehicle could touch the lunar surface in only three years!
Under the CLPS program, SpaceX could begin flying NASA cargo. Starship is capable of carrying 100 metric tons to the moon on one single trip. Each mission would take hardware and experiments, such as landing a variety robotic spacecraft like rovers, among other useful things that will help future brave astronauts camp out on the moon's silver surface. Shotwell said:
"CLPS is a great piece of what we want to get done with Starship."
During the teleconference, NASA officials announced that they would rather buy a ride on private craft, rather than building their own since it saves them a lot of money.
Ultimately, SpaceX aims to use Starship to transform humanity into a multi-planet species, the craft is designed to carry 100 people. Early uncrewed cargo missions to the moon and launching satellites will prove to NASA that the vehicle could safely fly people.
"We’re leveraging NASA initially for cargo and science, so I think it’s a nice stepping stone and a nice path to getting comfortable with the technology … so that it’s reliable enough to put people on-board."
-Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX President
SpaceX is currently building prototypes of the Starship vehicle in Texas and Florida. Read about it in previous articles:
• SpaceX Is Building The World's Most Powerful Rocket: Starship Technical Details