NASA Picks SpaceX to Build New Lunar Lander -- 2nd Update
By Doug Cameron
NASA on Friday awarded a contract to SpaceX to build a new
capsule to land astronauts on the moon, the latest in a string of
lunar-related wins for the Elon Musk-controlled company.
SpaceX beat out two rivals for the Human Landing System moon
taxi that will carry astronauts to and from the moon's surface from
an orbiting capsule as early as 2024. The contract is part of a
larger Artemis program led by the National Aeronautics and Space
Administration to explore and develop deep space. That program
relies more heavily on the private sector and commercial funding
than previous efforts.
The lander deal adds to the products SpaceX is developing, with
recent funding rounds raising its valuation close to $100 billion
as it pursues a mix of new rockets, space taxis and an array of
hundreds of satellites for military and commercial customers.
SpaceX already flies astronauts on behalf of NASA to and from
the International Space Station and is developing a large new
rocket called the Super Heavy to launch the Starship vehicle on
which its lunar lander is based. The Starship has made a series of
test flights from Texas, some of which have ended in failure after
exploding on landing.
NASA plans to use a new rocket made by Boeing Co. for a moon
mission known as Artemis 1 as early as November. It would fly
around the moon before returning the Orion crew capsule produced by
Lockheed Martin Corp. to Earth.
Current plans call for a second crewed test in 2023 that would
be followed the next year by the first astronaut landing since
1972, using the SpaceX moon taxi to transfer to and from Orion. The
final schedule for the Artemis program depends on contractors
developing and testing the equipment and securing funding for the
"If they're hitting their milestones, we may have a shot at
2024," NASA Acting Administrator Steve Jurczyk said at a news
Boeing's Space Launch System rocket and Orion crew capsule are
both owned by NASA, but the lunar lander is the largest part of
Artemis to rely on a public-private partnership and is owned and
run by SpaceX, formally known as Space Exploration Technologies
Mr. Jurczyk said in response to a question that there were no
plans to drop the Boeing rocket in favor of the SpaceX Super Heavy
for the crewed moon missions.
Boeing's own Starliner space taxi has yet to reach the space
station after an uncrewed test flight fell short in 2019, with a
second attempt expected later this year.
Closely held SpaceX beat out competition to build the initial
lander from Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin and the Dynetics unit of Leidos
Holdings Inc. Mr. Jurczyk said the single winner worked with NASA's
budget plans, and officials said that later flights would be opened
Write to Doug Cameron at email@example.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
April 16, 2021 18:42 ET (22:42 GMT)
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