NASA today awarded SpaceX a $331 million contract to launch the first two components of the Lunar Gateway space station, using its Falcon Heavy rocket.
The Gateway’s Power and Propulsion Element and Habitation and Logistics Outpost will launch in tandem no earlier than May 2024 aboard the Falcon Heavy rocket from pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The $331.8 million launch services contract, awarded by NASA’s Launch Services Program at Kennedy, includes the Falcon Heavy launch and “other mission-related costs,” the agency said in a statement. The $331 million contract value is nearly three times the price NASA is paying for a Falcon Heavy launch in July 2022 with the Psyche asteroid probe.
What is significant about this contract is what it does not mention: SLS. Gateway was originally conceived by NASA as a project that would give purpose to the SLS rocket, a rocket that Congress required NASA to build without giving it any mission. Now it appears NASA is looking to build Gateway without SLS, at least on this first launch.
I would throw this news item in the bin containing an number of recent stories, all of which signal that SLS is on increasingly thin ice.
From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.
Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.
The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.
He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.
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