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Nasa awards commercial cargo contract for lunar Gateway to SpaceX

Nasa awards commercial cargo contract for lunar Gateway to SpaceX

The terms of the Gateway Logistics Services contract will require SpaceX to deliver critical pressurised and unpressurised cargo, sample collection materials and other items the crew may need on the Gateway craft and also during their expeditions on the lunar surface.

Nasa describes the award as a significant step forward for its Artemis program, which aims to land humans on the Moon again by 2024 and build a sustainable human lunar presence.

“This contract award is another critical piece of our plan to return to the Moon sustainably,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.

“The Gateway is the cornerstone of the long-term Artemis architecture and this deep space commercial cargo capability integrates yet another American industry partner into our plans for human exploration at the Moon in preparation for a future mission to Mars.”

NASA says it is planning multiple supply missions in which the cargo spacecraft will stay at the orbiting station for six to 12 months at a time.

“Returning to the Moon and supporting future space exploration requires affordable delivery of significant amounts of cargo,” said SpaceX President and Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell. “Through our partnership with NASA, SpaceX has been delivering scientific research and critical supplies to the International Space Station since 2012, and we are honored to continue the work beyond Earth’s orbit and carry Artemis cargo to Gateway.”

The contracts for logistics services guarantee two missions per logistics services provider with a maximum total value of $7 billion across all contracts as additional missions are needed.

Studio apartment

On the Gateway itself, NASA has previously stated:

Astronauts will visit the Gateway at least once per year, but they won’t stay year-round like crew aboard the International Space Station. The Gateway is much smaller, too. Its interior is about the size of a studio apartment (whereas the space station is larger than a six-bedroom house). Once docked, astronauts can live and work aboard the spaceship for up to three months at a time, conduct science experiments, and take trips to the surface of the Moon.

Even without crew present, cutting-edge robotics and computers will operate experiments inside and outside the spaceship, automatically returning data back to Earth.

You can read more about the lunar project on the Nasa website.

Image credit: SpaceX – An illustration of the SpaceX Dragon XL as it is deployed from the Falcon Heavy’s second stage in high Earth orbit on its way to the Gateway in lunar orbit.

See also: NASA selects first two scientific payloads for Lunar Gateway