The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) revealed that it had chosen to give SpaceX an additional lunar landing contract just hours after the Space Launch System (SLS) Moon rocket’s liftoff.
The Starship lunar lander from SpaceX will transfer astronauts from the Orion spacecraft to the Moon. SpaceX is the only corporation that NASA has entrusted to land astronauts on the Moon. NASA’s Artemis mission will launch today, using the Artemis 1 mission to test the SLS and the Orion spacecraft. Before returning to Earth, Orion will be placed in a Moon orbit so several of its systems can be tested there.
The Human Landing System (HLS) program, which NASA launched after SpaceX received a hefty $2.9 billion last year to create its Starship lunar lander, is responsible for the agency’s ambitions to put astronauts on the Moon. The lander is a component of SpaceX’s next-generation Starship rocket, which is presently being built in Texas and is essential to the company’s aspirations to launch its second-generation Starlink internet satellites and transport goods and crew to Mars.
Today’s announcement continues Option A of the HLS program, which covered the award from the previous year, and Option B. The decision to award SpaceX the Option B prize had been hinted at earlier this year by NASA, but it still needed to be officially acknowledged.
Now that the Option B grant is official and will see SpaceX get a cool $1.15 billion, NASA had confirmed that it would happen hours before the eagerly awaited Artemis 1 flight. This award extends Option A, which was given to SpaceX to enable them to show that Starship can land on the Moon. The Gateway is a lunar space station that NASA is planning to build. It will eventually be used to transport astronauts and study the effects of operating far from Earth on the human body.
SpaceX will take several launches to build a propellant depot in Earth orbit as part of its groundbreaking Artemis program operations. The lunar Starship without a crew will launch and refuel once the depot is whole. Orion will dock with Gateway in the later stages of the Artemis program to transport the team to the space station before they board the Starship for a landing on the Moon.