- NASA has awarded the first supply contract for its Lunar Gateway to SpaceX.
- The capsule will be equipped to carry pressurized and unpressurized cargo up to 5 metric tons.
- Once connected, the capsule will dock with the station for up to a year.
NASA has awarded the first contract for its Gateway space station to SpaceX. The company's new Dragon XL capsule will be responsible for shipping key supplies to the lunar space station.
By structuring the Gateway Logistics contract as a public-private partnership where @NASA buys a service instead of owning and operating the hardware, we are helping our partners expand the commercial space economy to the lunar vicinity.— Jim Bridenstine (@JimBridenstine) March 27, 2020
“Returning to the Moon and supporting future space exploration requires affordable delivery of significant amounts of cargo,” SpaceX President and Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell said in a statement.
SpaceX has partnered with NASA to bring cargo to the International Space Station since 2012, launching science experiments and supplies aboard its crew dragon capsule and Falcon 9 rocket.
"We are honored to continue the work beyond Earth’s orbit and carry Artemis cargo to Gateway,” said Shotwell.
Dragon XL will be able to shuttle as much as 5 metric tons of supplies to the new space station and will be launched atop the company's Falcon Heavy rocket. Once the DragonXL capsule, equipped to carry both pressurized and unpressurized cargo, reaches the space station, it will stay docked for up to 12 months.
Like the ISS, astronauts aboard the Gateway will be tasked with conducting science experiments and preparing for spacewalks and lunar excursions. Dragon XL, according to NASA, will deliver "sample collection materials and other items the crew may need on the Gateway and during their expeditions on the lunar surface."
Last week, NASA revealed that, due to budgetary constraints and delays, Gateway won't be a critical part of the plan to send astronauts to the moon in 2024. Instead, the agency said it will aim to send astronauts straight to the lunar surface.
The Artemis Mission is already on rocky ground thanks to the spread of the novel coronavirus. The development of both the SLS rocket and Orion capsule, which the agency hopes will carry Artemis astronauts to the moon, has been delayed.
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