NASA has awarded SpaceX with a contract to supply Gateway, the moon-orbiting space station that the agency aims to start building in 2022, agency officials announced Friday. Space.com reports: Gateway is a key part of NASA’s Artemis exploration program, which seeks to establish a sustainable, long-term human presence on and around the moon by the late 2020s. The small space station will serve as a jumping-off point for sorties, both crewed and uncrewed, to the lunar surface. SpaceX will help to keep the Gateway supplied, delivering scientific experiments and a variety of other gear to the outpost, NASA officials said. The company is guaranteed two missions under its newly announced Gateway Logistics Services contract.
SpaceX’s robotic ISS resupply runs employ the company’s Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule, which can loft 13,200 lbs. (6,000 kilograms, or 6 metric tons) to low-Earth orbit. But SpaceX’s Gateway missions will use different hardware: the huge Falcon Heavy rocket and a special capsule variant called Dragon XL. (SpaceX has also developed another Dragon version, Crew Dragon, which will fly astronauts to and from the ISS under yet another NASA contract.) Dragon XL will be able to carry more than 5 metric tons of cargo to the Gateway, SpaceX representatives said via Twitter Friday. Dragon cargo missions to the ISS typically last about a month from launch to splashdown. But Dragon XL will likely stay attached to the Gateway for six to 12 months at a time, NASA officials said. Other companies may end up joining SpaceX in the Gateway resupply game.
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Source: Slashdot – NASA Picks SpaceX To Fly Cargo To Moon-Orbiting Gateway Space Station