Private aerospace company SpaceX has won another NASA contract. The space agency has selected Elon Musk’s company for providing launch services for its Artemis program. Under this program, NASA will send three spacecraft to Moon. The third and last spacecraft will take humans to the Moon. The agency is working to land humans on the lunar surface in 2024. As part of the contract, SpaceX will provide services for two major components of the Gateway. They are Power and Propulsion Element (PPE) and Habitation and Logistics Outpost (HALO). The PPE and HALO will be the foundational elements of the Gateway. It will serve as a way station for future missions. It will cost NASA approximately USD 331.8 million. This includes the launch service cost.
NASA said that the Gateway is crucial as it will support sustainable astronauts’ missions. Both the components — PPE and HALO will be integrated on Earth. The agency said that PPE is a solar electric propulsion spacecraft. It will provide power and high-speed communications to the astronauts. Besides, it will also have the capability to move the Gateway to different lunar orbits. This will provide astronauts greater access to the Moon’s surface. Another component, HALO is the pressurized living quarters. It is at the HALO where astronauts will work when they visit the Gateway. Basically, HALO will support science investigations, distribute power, and provide communications for vehicles visiting the lunar surface.
Both the PPE and HALO will be launched targeted. The launch is expected to take place anytime in 2024. They will be launched on a Falcon Heavy rocket. The Gateway will be about one-sixth the size of the International Space Station. NASA said that the Gateway will function as a way station. It will be in a near-rectilinear halo orbit. The Gateway will be a rendezvous point for astronauts traveling to Moon’s orbit. While the Artemis I will be an uncrewed flight, the Artemis II will be a crewed flight. It will be the first crewed flight beyond the low-Earth orbit since 1972. It will take astronauts to the Moon orbit and return to Earth. The third and final spacecraft, Artemis III will take two astronauts to the Moon’s surface.