SpaceX has won a vital mission in the NASA’s Artemis Program scheduled for 2024. SpaceX was awarded a $331.8 million contract by NASA to launch the first two pieces of the gateway lunar outpost in 2024. NASA said that SpaceX will be utilizing a modified version of its Falcon Heavy rocket for this mission.
The terms of the contract include the $331.8 million that NASA is paying for the Falcon Heavy launch and other costs arising from the mission. NASA already has a deal in place with SpaceX for a Falcon Heavy launch in 2022, and the current deal it signed with the American space transportation company more than triples the earlier contract.
NASA is setting up the outpost to help streamline the movement of astronauts to the lunar surface in preparation for its Artemis mission in 2024. In setting up the outpost, there would be contributions from other countries. The outpost is a smaller version of the International Space Station.
The PPE is a solar electric-powered spacecraft with the necessary technical specifications to allow for the movement of the Gateway to various lunar orbits. This will enable astronauts to gain more access to the moon’s surface than previous efforts in the past, Spaceflightnow reports.
The HALO will serve as a residential and workspace for astronauts coming to the gateway. It would be the official command center for the outpost. HALO is designed to provide the avenue for conducting research, power distribution, and communication for vehicles on a mission to the lunar surface.
Using its Falcon’s Heavy rocket, SpaceX will launch the PPE and HALO above the Earth’s orbit, where the gateway would enter into the lunar orbit. Thereafter, NASA’s Orion, carrying its crew, will dock on the gateway.
The HALO and Orion system is expected to support four astronauts for up to a month on the Gateway.
The last administration had scheduled the launch of the Artemis program for 2024. While Biden’s administration said it was in line with the plans by NASA, it is uncertain if the 2024 date would be feasible, considering the various challenges, technical and otherwise, that have since popped up even before Biden took office.
NASA had wanted to launch the PPE and HALO on separate rockets. However, last year, it rescinded its decision to do so and decided to launch on the same rocket. SpaceX has up to two missions scheduled in 2021. It has so far launched three Falcon Heavy rocket missions. The space company said it has spent over $500 to design the gateway.