NASA awards SpaceX a second Artemis contract to land Astronauts on the Moon with Starship

NASA awards SpaceX a second Artemis contract to land Astronauts on the Moon with Starship

On November 15, NASA awarded SpaceX a second Artemis contract to land astronauts on the Moon with the Starship Human Landing System (HLS). "NASA has awarded a contract modification to SpaceX to further develop its Starship human landing system to meet agency requirements for long-term human exploration of the Moon under Artemis," stated NASA representatives in a press release. 

The announcement comes on the same day NASA launched the Artemis I mission, which marked the debut flight of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket that propelled the Orion spacecraft towards lunar orbit to demonstrate its capabilities. The SLS/Orion will work alongside SpaceX's Starship HLS when NASA returns humanity to the Moon in 2025. SLS is designed to launch astronauts aboard Orion to lunar orbit where the capsule will mate with Starship HLS to transfer a pair of astronauts. Then, Starship HLS will land the first woman and next man on the lunar surface for the first time in over half-a-century.

To prepare for the first crewed flight, engineers must ensure the rocket-ships work perfectly. SpaceX already has a contract to launch an uncrewed Starship HLS demonstration spaceflight to the Moon, which will be the Artemis II mission. Under the original contract, astronauts are scheduled to launch to the lunar surface by 2025 for the Artemis III mission. As part of the updated contract, SpaceX will conduct the Artemis IV mission in 2027 which will also be a spaceflight to land crew on the Moon. 

“Returning astronauts to the Moon to learn, live, and work is a bold endeavor. With multiple planned landers, from SpaceX and future partners, NASA will be better positioned to accomplish the missions of tomorrow: conducting more science on the surface of the Moon than ever before and preparing for crewed missions to Mars,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.

The SpaceX Artemis contract modification is referred to as "Option B" and has a value of about $1.15 billion. “Continuing our collaborative efforts with SpaceX through Option B furthers our resilient plans for regular crewed transportation to the lunar surface and establishing a long-term human presence under Artemis,” said Lisa Watson-Morgan, manager for the Human Landing System program at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. “This critical work will help us focus on the development of sustainable, service-based lunar landers anchored to NASA’s requirements for regularly recurring missions to the lunar surface.”

"The aim of this new work under Option B is to develop and demonstrate a Starship lunar lander that meets NASA’s sustaining requirements for missions beyond Artemis III, including docking with Gateway, accommodating four crew members, and delivering more mass to the surface," said the agency.  

Featured Image Source: SpaceX 

About the Author

Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo

Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo

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.

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