Featured Images Source: NASA / Starship Image by @LabPadre via Twitter
NASA awarded a contract to SpaceX to develop a lunar-optimized Starship Human Landing System (HLS) to land astronauts on the Moon as part of the Artemis program that will launch the first woman and next man to the Moon. It will be humanity’s first time back to our closest celestial neighbor in half a century. SpaceX is working to develop the two-stage Starship vehicle, which consists of a powerful Super Heavy rocket booster that will propel the spacecraft to orbit. The company is preparing to conduct the first-ever orbital flight test this year that will enable engineers to speed up the spacecraft’s development.
NASA Artemis team members and agency representatives visited the Starship factory in South Texas to discuss the company’s progress. "SpaceX hosted NASA leadership at their Starbase facility in Boca Chica, TX, for an update on Starship, the human landing system that will carry the next American astronauts to the Moon on Artemis III," the agency announced on June 10. NASA shared a photo of representatives checking out the Raptor V2 engines and Super Heavy's giant grid fins, pictured below. The rocket will be equipped with four grid fins located at top used to guide the vehicle when it returns from space.
.@NASA and @SpaceX leadership recently met for an update on Starship, the human landing system that will take our @NASAAstronauts to the lunar surface with #Artemis III.— NASA Artemis (@NASAArtemis) June 10, 2022
Starship is vital to putting the first woman on the Moon: https://t.co/HuuHvCERj0 pic.twitter.com/T9noIjo8gI
@SpaceX hosted @NASA leadership at their Starbase facility in Boca Chica, TX, for an update on Starship, the human landing system that will carry the next American astronauts to the Moon on #Artemis III. Learn more about this collaboration >> https://t.co/s2LoACp1WN pic.twitter.com/mHHX5I227W— NASA Marshall (@NASA_Marshall) June 10, 2022
The Artemis III mission is currently set to occur sometime in the year 2025. Before launching humans, they will perform a pair of uncrewed demonstration spaceflights to the Lunar South Pole, designated as Artemis I and Artemis II. NASA's return to the Moon will make use of SpaceX’s Starship HLS, as well as the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion capsule. Four lucky astronauts will make history on the Artemis III mission to the Moon. They will lift off aboard the Orion atop the SLS rocket from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Orion will dock to a Starship in lunar orbit and two astronauts (a woman and a man) will transfer to the spacecraft. Starship will land the brave duo on the lunar surface, while the other two astronauts remain inside Orion orbiting the Moon to supervise Starship's landing and overall week-long lunar exploration mission.
NASA's SLS and Orion are actively under development in Florida; It is expected to conduct a debut flight in August 2022. SpaceX is expected to also conduct its first test flight to orbit sometime this year, the company is pending regulatory approval to launch from Boca Chica Beach. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) performed an environmental assessment of the Starbase launch site that is scheduled to be completed by June 13th. SpaceX already performed proof tests on the stainless-steel prototypes that could attempt the orbital flight, identified as Starship SN24 and Super Heavy rocket Booster 7. SN24 underwent cryogenic proof testing last week and on Thursday, June 9, SpaceX transported it back to the rocket factory after a series of tests at the launch pad which is located less than 5-miles down the road. SpaceX founder Elon Musk shared that Starship SN4 passed the proof tests on June 2nd. Now, engineers will likely begin installing six Raptor V2 engines to SN24 to perform a static-fire test in the days ahead. Booster 7 is already getting engines installed at the factory.
Featured Images Source: NASA / Starship image by @LabPadre via Twitter