HAWTHORNE (CNS) - Hawthorne-based SpaceX was one of three aerospace firms chosen by NASA today to develop a landing system that will carry astronauts between the surface of the Moon and a planned orbiting base.
NASA hopes to return astronauts to the Moon by 2024 through its Artemis program. Part of that effort includes the development of an lunar- orbiting base known as Gateway that will serve as a stopping point for astronauts between the Earth and Moon.
Under the contracts announced Thursday, SpaceX and two other firms will develop prototype “human landing systems,” one of which will ultimately chosen as the transport system between Gateway and the lunar surface. The three contracts total $967 million and are for a 10-month period.
SpaceX's proposal is a “Starship” lander that will be powered by a SpaceX Super Heavy rocket. Also chosen to design landers were Washington-based Blue Origin and Alabama-based Dynetics.
“With these contract awards, America is moving forward with the final step needed to land astronauts on the Moon by 2024, including the incredible moment when we will see the first woman set foot on the lunar surface,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement. “This is the first time since the Apollo era that NASA has direct funding for a human landing system, and now we have companies on contract to do the work for the Artemis program.”
SpaceX founder Elon Musk reacted to the news on Twitter, posting, “Great work by SpaceX team & very much appreciate faith in Starship by NASA.”
According to SpaceX, the Starship craft has “large habitable and storage volume” and is “capable of delivering significant amounts of cargo for research and to support robust operations on the lunar surface to enable a sustainable moon base.”
The company noted that the Starship can make repeated trips between the Moon and lunar orbit “without flaps or heat shielding required for Earth return.”
In March, NASA selected SpaceX to ferry cargo between Earth and the Gateway orbiting spaceship.
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