Dragon XL Unveiled as NASA Taps SpaceX in Lunar Gateway Supply Contract
NASA has signed SpaceX to carry a flagship-level resupply contract for the Lunar Gateway. Based on the successful working relationship established during the ISS resupply missions, SpaceX will use its Falcon Heavy rocket to launch a new spacecraft called the Dragon XL to the upcoming lunar outpost per a Gateway Logistics Services (GLS) contract, reports NASASpaceFlight.com
SpaceX signs on to NASA's Lunar Gateway
NASA's Lunar Gateway is crucial to the agency's Artemis Program, which exists to send humans back to the surface of the Moon.
The timeline for the Gateway's role in the first lunar landing — slated for 2024 — is presently undergoing re-evaluation that will remove it from the 2024 mission, NASA has once more committed to the outpost, now solidified with the new GLS contract announcement, made on Friday.
SpaceX has a long history of successful resupply missions to the International Space Station — initially with the Cargo Dragon, and shortly with its Dragon 2/Cargo version of the Crew Dragon, and now the GLS contract has unveiled a new version of the spacecraft.
Dragon XL, the large cargo vehicle
Called the Dragon XL, this new large cargo vehicle looks a lot like a large Cygnus XL, breaking with usual Dragon style, and will launch aboard SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket. SpaceX noted that the new spacecraft will be optimized to transport more than five metric tons of cargo to lunar orbit, and Gateway itself.
"Returning to the Moon and supporting future space exploration requires affordable delivery of significant amounts of cargo," said Gwynne Shotwell, president and chief operating officer of SpaceX, according to NASA. "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."
As NASA recommits itself to long-term Moon goals, SpaceX is stepping up to help bring humans back to the lunar surface. When Dragon XL launches aboard the Falcon Heavy rocket, it will only be a matter of time before the way we think about humans in space changes irrevocably, as the settlers of North America changed the way we thought about the new world.