SpaceX becomes NASA’s preferred “space taxi” to land on the moon

NASA has reached an agreement with SpaceX that the company will participate in the Artemis 4 mission planned for 2027. This will again be a shuttle between the moon and space. The US space agency had previously commissioned SpaceX for a similar task with the Artemis 3 mission.

SpaceX is becoming an increasingly important player in American space conquest day by day. Already involved in the Artemis 3 mission expected in 2025, the aerospace company founded by Elon Musk is now being linked to the next mission. NASA announced this in a press release on November 15, 2022.

In this case, SpaceX must provide the US space agency with a landing system that can accommodate a crew that shuttles back and forth between the space station around the moon and the satellite’s surface. SpaceX already has a plan in mind: it will use a modified version of the spacecraft so that the rocket’s second stage can be used for the task.

The Starship HLS cut for landing astronauts on the moon

This version of the spaceship is called Starship HLS (Human Landing System). It must be implemented from 2025 for Artémis 3 and from 2027 for Artémis 4. The Starship is currently still in the development phase. In particular, we expect an orbital flight with the complete launch vehicle. It could happen in 2022.

The agreement between NASA and SpaceX is non-exclusive. As stated Bill Nelson, the head of the agency, other groups can also become partners in the manufacture of their lunar landers. Just like access to the ISS, which is provided by multiple service providers, which guarantees high availability and good redundancy.

SpaceX has many use cases for the spacecraft. // Source: SpaceX

But before anyone can be transported, SpaceX must first prove it has the capacity. It’s one thing to fly the spaceship around the earth. Sending it to the moon and doing a (unbolted) demonstration on the moon is another matter. It is imperative that SpaceX take this mandatory step prior to participating in the Artemis program.

SpaceX is expected to safely return its spacecraft to lunar orbit, dock with the future space station, land on the surface, and take off. The rocket must also be able to connect to the Orion spacecraft, which will transport astronauts between Earth and the Moon and back.

And the Space Launch System (SLS) in all of this? Its role remains clear: NASA’s mega rocket must ensure that astronauts are sent from Earth into space (the crew must consist of four people). All will be installed in the Orion spacecraft, which will be placed on the launch vehicle. The transfer from Orion to the HLS spacecraft takes place near the moon.

For further

The Artemis mission summarized in 5 minutes.  // Source: YouTube Nasa screenshot

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