Florida's Kennedy Space Center A $1.15 billion contract from NASA has been given to SpaceX to modify its Starship lunar lander and launch a second crewed mission.
On Nov. 15, NASA declared that it had finished modifying the contract for SpaceX's Human Landing System (HLS), also known as Option B. Option B includes $2.9 billion in upgrades to the Starship lander that NASA originally chose for HLS in April 2021. A second crewed demonstration landing mission is also included in the option.
According to NASA HLS programme manager Lisa Watson-Morgan, "continuing our collaboration efforts with SpaceX via Option B furthers our robust plans for frequent crewed transportation to the lunar surface and establishing a long-term human presence under Artemis." This important work will enable us to concentrate on creating lunar landers with a service-based model that adhere to NASA's requirements for repeat missions to the moon's surface.
When NASA revealed its Sustaining Lunar Development (SLD) initiative in March to support the development of a second Artemis crewed lunar lander, it declared its intention to execute Option B. NASA announced that it would exercise the option in SpaceX's first HLS grant to modify Starship for later Artemis missions that will carry more humans and stay on the moon for extended periods of time instead of allowing SpaceX to compete for the SLD contract.
It was unclear when the second mission would launch when NASA declared its intention to use Option B. However, agency representatives announced last month that Artemis 4, a mission that NASA had initially planned to dedicate to development on the lunar Gateway and not feature a landing, would be Option B. No earlier than Artemis 5, the lander chosen for SLD development would launch its demonstration mission.
At its Boca Chica, Texas, test site, SpaceX is still making preparations for the Starship's initial orbital launch attempt. The most Raptor engines lit in a single test by SpaceX occurred during a static-fire test on November 14 when 14 of the booster's 33 Raptors were fired. Elon Musk, the founder and CEO of SpaceX, announced in a tweet that the company would attempt an orbital launch after the 20-second engine test and "possibly one more static fire."
The first Starship orbital launch attempt might happen as soon as early December, according to Mark Kirasich, deputy assistant administrator for Artemis Campaign Development at NASA, who spoke at a meeting of the NASA Advisory Council's Human Exploration and Operations Committee on October 31. This timetable was subject to the vehicle's testing and the Federal Aviation Administration's approval of the launch. He claimed that as one of the key developments in the creation of the Starship lunar lander, NASA was keenly monitoring the planned test flight.
With a deadline of December 6, NASA is presently accepting suggestions for the second Artemis lander. In June 2023, the agency plans to announce the winner of that lander.
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Edited by: Satyavrat Singh