SpaceX partnership with Dragon: the XL: NASA

28 Mar 2020 Saturday
SpaceX partnership with Dragon: the XL: NASA
Zeki Topçu
Zeki Topçu Editor

Dragon: the XL was the first child of the Gateway's material handling contract between NASA and SpaceX. Dragon: the XL will carry material into space.

Despite the worsening coronavirus pandemic, NASA is still focused on its goal of sending people to the Moon. He wants SpaceX to start shipping tours to the Moon in the near future. As a result, we came across Dragon: the XL. NASA has given SpaceX the task of sending cargo and materials to a space station that it wants to build in orbit of the Moon.

Meet SpaceX's new Dragon: the XL

The new partnership is a big part of NASA's Artemis program. An important move for the attempt to bring the first woman to the moon surface until 2024. As part of the program, NASA plans to build a space station in the orbit called the Gateway of the astronauts around the Moon. This station will be a stop to work and study before going to the Moon. Just like the International Space Station, the Gateway will need material and science experiments. SpaceX will be the first private company to be used to accomplish this.

SpaceX partnership with Dragon: the XL: NASA

SpaceX has been supplying cargo to the International Space Station for almost a decade. The company ships supplies with the Dragon capsule inside the Falcon 9 rocket. SpaceX will upgrade some of its vehicles to be able to carry supplies for the Future Gateway. According to SpaceX, XL is developing a new cargo vehicle called Dragon XL, a cylindrical white spacecraft that can carry more than 5 metric tons of cargo to the Gateway in the lunar orbit. The larger dragon will be carried with a much stronger variant of Falcon 9, consisting of three interconnected rocket cores, the Falcon Heavy rocket.

The Gateway will be fed Dragon: the XL

SpaceX is getting ready to send multiple vehicles to the Gateway after the station is running. During each trip, Dragon XL will stay connected to the Gateway for six to 12 months. According to NASA, the capsule will carry things like “sample collection materials and other items that the crew may need at the Gateway and need during the lunar exploration”. 

"Returning to the moon and supporting future space research requires affordable delivery of a significant amount of cargo," said Gwynne Shotwell, president, and COO of SpaceX. "Thanks to our partnership with NASA, SpaceX has been We provide critical materials for research and are honored to continue working beyond Earth's orbit and moving Artemis cargoes to the Gateway. ” added.

SpaceX partnership with Dragon: the XL: NASA

SpaceX will probably not be the only company tasked with sending materials to the Gateway. Ultimately, NASA has the option to add multiple cargo suppliers, and Artemis has a spending budget of up to $ 7 billion for its cargoes. Each contract guarantees that NASA will order at least two cargo missions per provider.

Purpose of the Artemis Project

While the contract is a big step for SpaceX and NASA, there are many questions about the future of the Artemis program. First, it is not clear when the Gateway will be built. For the past few years, NASA officials have argued that Gateway construction is a crucial part of the Artemis program because it will help the space agency build a sustainable presence, rather than sending astronauts to "leave footprints and flags" on the moon's surface.

Management is pushing NASA to land its first Artemis astronauts by 2024. If the space agency wants to return people to the Moon in the next four years, it may not have enough time to build the Gateway. According to Space News, NASA's newly appointed assistant manager for new discoveries said Gateway was no longer critical to bring people to the Moon until 2024. This does not mean that it will not be built, but it may not be until after the first month of landing.

SpaceX partnership with Dragon: the XL: NASA

There are also problems with the project

Meanwhile, the coronavirus pandemic is making it less likely that NASA will be able to meet the date of 2024 as it forces the agency to suspend production in some important programs. One of the biggest problems is that NASA has closed the development of the Space Launch System,  which the next big rocket the agency plans to use to fly the first Artemis astronauts to the Moon. 

As for SpaceX, it is considered indispensable by the state of California because of its work with the Department of Defense. It is still working during the pandemic. Therefore, it may be possible for the company to make a leap in the development of this new capsule. However, it is uncertain when the Gateway will be ready to receive the first shipment.