NASA and SpaceX are Developing Tech to Refuel Spacecraft While in Orbit

The SpaceX and NASA project was announced alongside 12 other space tech partnerships.

NASA has just announced that it is working with SpaceX "to advance technology needed to transfer propellant in orbit."

Refueling in space, the company says, is "an important step in the development of the company’s Starship space vehicle."

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Planning for 2024

NASA's Artemis program is planning to take humans back to the Moon by 2024. As part of their preparations, the iconic space company has just announced a list of 13 private U.S. companies they will be collaborating with.

“NASA’s proven experience and unique facilities are helping commercial companies mature their technologies at a competitive pace,” Jim Reuter, associate administrator of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) said in a NASA statement. “We’ve identified technology areas NASA needs for future missions, and these public-private partnerships will accelerate their development so we can implement them faster.”

NASA and SpaceX are Developing Tech to Refuel Spacecraft While in Orbit
An artist rendering of NASA's Artemis program. Source: NASA

Starship partnership 

As BGR reports, perhaps the most notable amongst these is SpaceX, who has been tasked with creating technologies that will help spacecraft refuel while in orbit.

Being able to refuel a spacecraft while it's in space would greatly improve the efficiency of space travel — pulling away from Earth's gravity is typically the most intensive part of space travel, where rocket boosters need to use the most fuel.

Starship having the capability to refuel in space would mean a far greater range for space missions as well. If NASA and SpaceX successfully collaborate to create the technology, it will no doubt also become a big part of their efforts to get humans to Mars. 

“NASA’s proven experience and unique facilities are helping commercial companies mature their technologies at a competitive pace,” NASA’s Jim Reuter said in the statement.

“We’ve identified technology areas NASA needs for future missions, and these public-private partnerships will accelerate their development so we can implement them faster.”

NASA and SpaceX have long been collaborating, and this is just one more step to getting humans back to the Moon and then beyond.

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