NASA has approved SpaceX as the first company to deliver goods on a future lunar space station Gateway. SpaceX will develop a new cargo spacecraft Dragon XL, which will bring the station up to five tons of cargo. After docking the ship will be on station from six months to a year.
NASA, like many other space Agency, said one of its main goals for the next decade and landing humans on Mars. However, at the moment, NASA has no ready technologies to deliver astronauts to Mars and bring them back to Earth. In 2017 NASA and Roskosmos (currently part of “Roscosmos” is in question) signed the agreement on creation in a lunar orbit, a manned station, which will conduct missions in orbit and the lunar surface. It is planned that the technical achievements of this project and the station itself will be the basis for the first manned missions to Mars. More about this can be found in our material , “interim station”.
Initially it was assumed that the modules of the station, a manned spacecraft “Orion” and other cargo into orbit of the moon will deliver a super-heavy rocket, the SLS, but because of the repeated postponement of its first flight, NASA decided to give the delivery of the cargo modules and U.S. private companies. The first contract for the supply of Gateway was awarded to SpaceX.
For the lunar station, SpaceX will develop a new spacecraft Dragon XL. According to the requirements NASA, he will be able to deliver to the station to five tons of cargo per flight, both in the outer compartments and sealed internal. After automatic docking with the space station Dragon XL should be able to function normally in this state for at least years, although NASA expects that some of the missions will be shorter — about six months. Space Dragon XL will send a heavy rocket Falcon Heavy.
Program terms and conditions of supply of a lunar station NASA is obliged to choose at least one American company. Each company will receive at least two missions, and the total value of all contracts shall not exceed seven billion dollars.
While details about Dragon XL is unknown, but it is likely that SpaceX uses in the achievements of their previous projects spacecraft Dragon, and Crew Dragon. The first version of the Dragon made its first flight in 2010, and in 2012 became the first private spacecraft docked to the ISS. March 7, 2020 Dragon made its final flight, and now all cargo and manned launches to the ISS, SpaceX will conduct with the help of Crew Dragon. He made the first unmanned flight to the ISS in 2019, and the first manned flight scheduled for spring-summer 2020.