SpaceX Awarded Contract to Deliver Cargo to Lunar Gateway Orbital Outpost

Rodiano Bonacci
Marzo 29, 2020

"This is an exciting new chapter for human exploration", added Mark Wiese, Deep Space Logistics manager at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. NASA has not elaborated on those revised plans since his comments.

The Dragon XL spacecraft builds on the legacy of SpaceX's unmanned Dragon freighters, which now supply the International Space Station, and the company's Crew Dragon spacecraft, created to transport astronauts to and from the United States. outpost from the end of this year.

The un-piloted Dragon XL has no provisions to return cargo to Earth, but it is larger than the current spacecraft - and since it will be protected by a payload during launch, can carry experiments and other hardware on its hull. All told, he should be able to carry enough supplies and equipment to allow the astronauts to stay on Gateway for 60 consecutive days.

SpaceX's robotic Dragon XL, a cylindrical, supersized version of its workhorse Dragon spacecraft, will handle shipments to the Gateway space platform as the first commercial provider to receive a Gateway Logistics Services contract from NASA.

At some point, the Gateway will house facilities for giant rockets to refuel for flights to Mars lasting more than six months, according to NASA.

"Returning to the Moon and supporting future space exploration requires affordable delivery of significant amounts of cargo". Under the first Gateway Logistics Services contract to be awarded to a USA company, SpaceX will deliver pressurized and unpressurized supplies, experiments, and items to the Gateway station, which will be used for the Artemis program to return American astronauts to the lunar surface and establish a permanent manned presence there. Astronaut crews will travel aboard Lockheed Martin-built Orion capsules launched to the moon by gargantuan space launch rockets - SLS - under construction by Boeing. If found, ice could be used to generate water, air and oxygen-hydrogen rocket propellants, which would save transportation costs from Earth. NASA included a closing paragraph in its update that noted it's "looking at the parachute testing plan now and all the data we already have to determine next steps", but it does conclude that it's doing so in the interest of "flying the upcoming Demo-2 flight test in the mid-to-late May timeframe".

Each mission will remain docked to the station for up to a year and could provide additional volume for crews there. The gate could change lanes and get virtually all lunar landing sites within easy reach. Now, SpaceX has scored a contract to supply Gateway, the moon-orbiting space station that the agency aims to start building in 2022, agency officials announced Friday (March 27).

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