NASA has selected Elon Musk’s SpaceX as the first US commercial provider under the Gateway Logistics Services contract to deliver cargo, experiments and other supplies to the agency’s Gateway in lunar orbit.
The award is a significant step forward for NASA’s Artemis program that will land the first woman and next man on the moon by 2024 and build a sustainable human lunar presence.
At the moon, NASA and its partners will gain the experience necessary to mount a historic human mission to Mars.
SpaceX will deliver critical pressurised and unpressurised cargo, science experiments and supplies to the Gateway, such as sample collection materials and other items the crew may need on the Gateway and during their expeditions on the lunar surface.
NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said, "This contract award is another critical piece of our plan to return to the moon sustainably. The Gateway is the cornerstone of the long-term Artemis architecture and this deep space commercial cargo capability integrates yet another American industry partner into our plans for human exploration at the moon in preparation for a future mission to Mars."
NASA is planning multiple supply missions in which the cargo spacecraft will stay at the Gateway for six to 12 months at a time. These firm-fixed price, indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contracts for logistics services guarantee two missions per logistics services provider with a maximum total value of $7 billion across all contracts as additional missions are needed.
The Gateway Logistics Services contract enables NASA to order missions for as long as 12 years with a 15-year performance period and provides the ability to add new competitive providers. These missions will support NASA’s plans for sustainable exploration with both international and commercial partners, while developing the experience and capabilities necessary to send humans to Mars.
SpaceX president and chief operating officer Gwynne Shotwell reinforced the comments made by Bridenstine, saying, "Returning to the moon and supporting future space exploration requires affordable delivery of significant amounts of cargo.
"Through our partnership with NASA, SpaceX has been delivering scientific research and critical supplies to the International Space Station since 2012, and we are honoured to continue the work beyond Earth’s orbit and carry Artemis cargo to Gateway."
Charged with returning to the moon in the next four years, NASA’s Artemis program will reveal new knowledge about the moon, Earth and our origins in the solar system.
The Gateway is a vital part of NASA’s deep space exploration plans, along with the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, Orion spacecraft, and human landing system that will send astronauts the moon.
One standard logistics service mission is anticipated for each Artemis SLS/Orion crewed mission to the Gateway. Gaining new experiences on and around the moon will prepare NASA to send the first humans to Mars in the coming years, and the Gateway will play a vital role in this process.
Dan Hartman, Gateway program manager at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, added, "We’re making significant progress moving from our concept of the Gateway to reality. Bringing a logistics provider onboard ensures we can transport all the critical supplies we need for the Gateway and on the lunar surface to do research and technology demonstrations in space that we can’t do anywhere else. We also anticipate performing a variety of research on and within the logistics module.”
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