CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft will deliver supplies to NASA’s spacecraft orbiting the moon part of the U.S. space agency’s goal to return astronauts to the lunar surface by 2024.
NASA announced Friday it had awarded a firm-fixed-price indefinite contract to SpaceX for a maximum of $7 billion for at least two missions to NASA’s lunar Gateway.
The Gateway will be the rendezvous point where astronauts will dock before shuttling down to the lunar surface on a human lander, currently under development.
The SpaceX cargo Dragon spacecraft already delivers supplies to the International Space Station and a Crew Dragon spacecraft will soon begin launching astronauts to the ISS as soon as mid-May.
With this new contract, SpaceX will conduct supply runs with its cargo spacecraft, traveling to lunar orbit and staying at Gateway for six to 12 months at a time.
“Returning to the Moon and supporting future space exploration requires affordable delivery of significant amounts of cargo,” SpaceX President and Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell said in a statement. “Through our partnership with NASA, SpaceX has been delivering scientific research and critical supplies to the International Space Station since 2012, and we are honored to continue the work beyond Earth’s orbit and carry Artemis cargo to Gateway.”
According to NASA, SpaceX will deliver science experiments and supplies to the station orbiting the moon, including sample collection materials and goods for astronauts working on the lunar surface.
While SpaceX is the first contractor selected to make supply runs to Gateway NASA plans to accept additional bids from other service providers. Any company selected would fulfill two missions, according to NASA.
NASA officials said the first Gateway re-supply mission is currently planned for 2024.
Prior to any visits from a Dragon spacecraft, NASA must assemble the Gateway in space. According to NASA, the first part of the lunar outpost is slated to launch in 2022 and the space agency expects it to be fully assembled by 2026.