Artist’s rendering of SpaceX Starship human lander design. (Photo: Nasa)
- SpaceX is developing the Starship and has recently conducted an engine test
- Nasa had in July 2021 given the first contract to SpaceX
- The objective of the contract is to develop and demonstrate a Starship lunar lander
By India Today Web Desk: Amid his chaotic management at Twitter, Elon Musk’s SpaceX has bagged another contract valued at $1.5 billion to develop its Starship human landing system to transport humans to the Moon. With Nasa launching the Artemis-1 mission that will return humans to the lunar world, Starship will be part of long-term lunar exploration plans.
SpaceX is developing the Starship and has recently conducted an engine test where it fired all 14 engines. The company is working to conduct the first orbital flight of Starship by either end of this year or the beginning of 2023. As part of the new contract, SpaceX will provide a second crewed landing demonstration mission in 2027 for the Artemis IV mission.
“Returning astronauts to the Moon to learn, live, and work is a bold endeavour. With multiple planned landers, from SpaceX and future partners, we will be better positioned to accomplish the missions of tomorrow: conducting more science on the surface of the Moon than ever before and preparing for crewed missions to Mars,” Nasa Administrator Bill Nelson, said in a statement.
Nasa had in July 2021 given the first contract to SpaceX under its Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships-2 program. Following the announcement, Musk tweeted, “Much appreciated, SpaceX will not let Nasa down!”
“Continuing our collaborative efforts with SpaceX through Option B furthers our resilient plans for regular crewed transportation to the lunar surface and establishing a long-term human presence under Artemis. his critical work will help us focus on the development of sustainable, service-based lunar landers anchored to NASA’s requirements for regularly recurring missions to the lunar surface,” Lisa Watson-Morgan, manager for the Human Landing System said.
The objective of the contract is to develop and demonstrate a Starship lunar lander that meets Nasa’s sustaining requirements for missions beyond Artemis III. As part of its previous contract, SpaceX has to develop a human landing system variant of Starship to land the next American astronauts on the Moon under Artemis III.
SpaceX will also conduct an uncrewed demonstration mission to the Moon prior to Artemis III. SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin have been at loggerheads regarding the contract over developing the lunar lander system, with Bezos dragging Nasa to court.
The Musk-led company is prepping Starship for its maiden orbital flight, which will test the entire system for the first time, involving the company’s 230-foot Super Heavy booster that will lift the 160-foot Starship spacecraft into orbit.
The Super Heavy booster would return to land, while the orbital Starship spacecraft would re-enter Earth’s atmosphere roughly 90 minutes later to splash down off a Hawaiian coast, according to regulatory documents SpaceX filed last year.