After about a year of waiting, NASA has finally announced which company it has chosen to land its astronauts on the Moon as part of the Artemis program. Without real surprise, the American agency awarded a $ 2.9 billion contract with SpaceX, which will carry out this mission with its Starship spacecraft.
Elon Musk defeated Jeff Bezos
Initially, three companies forming a lander were selected by NASA: Blue Origin, Dynetics and SpaceX; so they had a few months to further develop their ship. After once pushing back the winner’s announcement, the galaxy agency finally announced it on Friday, April 16th.
The value of SpaceX has reached $ 125 billion
The choice of SpaceX seems logical, as the company has become a major player in space in recent years. This victory is also special for Elon Musk who, after passing Jeff Bezos for the title of richest man in the world, has now defeated him in this sector. As a reminder, Blue Origin, another company running to get this contract, is among the CEO of Amazon.
However, SpaceX needs to hurry, because if Musk is sure that his Starship rocket will be ready to take humans into space from 2023, recent tests of prototypes of the device will almost all end in explosions … The contract of 2, 9 billion dollars however, it should allow to further accelerate (very high speed) the development of Starship, the main priority of SpaceX for several months already.
Starship could steal the show on SLS
Right now, the Starship mission is limited to retrieving astronauts from the Artemis 3 mission into orbit, the first to go to the Moon as part of the program, and then deliver them to our satellite. In fact, the latter typically leaves Earth aboard the Orion capsule, which will be propelled by the Space Launch System (SLS) launcher. In progress over nearly a decade, the latter has recently passed an important milestone by passing what it calls the “Green Run” test.
However, one might wonder if, ultimately, the Starship wouldn’t be better able to accomplish the entire mission. It’s also an overpowered rocket, and especially when combined with the Super Heavy booster, which has massive capacity for payload and above all, it has a huge advantage over the SLS: it’s reusable. The launch of SLS will cost approximately $ 1 billion, the explanation of New York Times ; if Starship does the entire mission, NASA will know the huge savings and no longer have to implement major maneuvers in lunar orbit.
It’s still unclear which direction NASA will take, especially since it has spent billions of dollars developing the SLS: its completion could be considered a huge failure. On the other hand, the Starship is not lacking in arguments because it was designed by Elon Musk’s company for long manned flights, to the Moon but also to Mars.
SpaceX reaches the sky
Therefore, this announcement confirms SpaceX’s dominance in the private space sector. The company is in all fields across the Atlantic: its Crew Dragon capsule now carries astronauts to the ISS, its reusable Falcon 9 launcher conducts several missions each month, while the Falcon Heavy rocket is also chosen to bring a NASA rover to the Moon. in 2023.
As for the arrival of the next astronauts on our satellite, the date may still change. If Donald Trump sees (very) big by imposing a deadline in 2024, the Biden administration wants to be more cautious, this important date could be postponed. “We think it’s feasible with what we have and what we can expect in terms of funding”said Steve Jurczyk, acting administrator of NASA.