NASA awards SpaceX deal to provide cargo to Gateway


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Capitalism in space: Should NASA ever decide to build its proposed Gateway space station in orbit around the Moon (the odds of which have gone down recently), it announced today that it has signed a deal with SpaceX to use its Falcon Heavy rocket and an upgraded larger version of its Dragon capsule to ship cargo to that station.

The deal calls for at least two missions, and is SpaceX’s first deal in NASA’s Artemis program.

This deal is a major blow to SLS and Boeing, which up to now had a monopoly on all launches to supply and launch Gateway. In fact, Gateway was invented by Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and NASA (not Congress) in order to justify SLS’s existence. That NASA has now decided it is better off using the much cheaper and already operational Falcon Heavy for some Gateway missions suggests that SLS is increasingly vulnerable to cancellation. NASA is making it obvious that other commercial options exist. No need to wait years and spend billions for SLS, when they can go now, for much less.

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8 comments

  • pzatchok

    Could the killing of SLS be the cost to get a Covid 19 loan from the government to save Boeing?
    Drop the SlS to save the Max?

  • Chris Lopes

    I think it’s an admission that SLS may not be the vehicle we will use to explore (and settle) the rest of the solar system. At the very least, NASA is keeping its options open. SLS is a failure and they know it.

  • mkent

    What are you talking about Robert? SLS did not
    have a monopoly of Gateway flights. In fact,
    SLS had no Gateway flights at all. Both previous
    Gateway contracts — the Power and Propulsion
    Element and the MiniHab (the only Gateway
    elements needed for the 2024 flight under the
    original plan) — provided for commercial launches
    for their elements. Boeing won neither of htose.

  • mkent

    Oh, and Boeing has been massively lobbying
    *against* Gateway for quite some time now.
    Their preference is an expendable architecture
    using two SLS flights and no commercial flights
    per Artemis mission. They are opposed to the
    Gateway-centered re-usable architecture planned
    for Artemis. It seems in this case you have
    things exactly backwards.

  • Lee S

    From a European perspective, whatever way around it is/was… This is a win for the you guys… Capitalism at its best…. And to be fair… NASA is head and shoulders above anyone else at robotic missions… But when it comes to launches, SpaceX kicks NASAs butt. As You have pointed out so many times Bob, it seems that the SLS is more of a jobs program than a serious attempt to throw stuff into space. I’m pleased that sanity seems to be falling into place, and the logical plan is being considered. I know we don’t see eye to eye on many subjects… But on this space related one, ( which is why I am here ).. go USA!

  • Richard M

    mkent,

    It sure is striking how rapidly Boeing’s enthusiasm for the Gateway has receded as it became evident they weren’t getting any contracts to build it, or for SLS to launch it.

    So an architecture where Boeing gets billions more to develop an expensive upper stage for SLS (which of course will take much longer and cost much more money than anticipated) is just the ticket for them, regardless of whether they get a lander contract or not. Unfortunately, it looks like they have a fair shot at getting what they want.

  • sippin_bourbon

    I am not finding much info regarding the DragonVL mentioned in the articles, so I am assuming this is still theoretical. Usually Musk likes to throw something out, even if the numbers are huge or outlandish, and then pared down to reality later.

  • sippin_bourbon

    Dragon XL…

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