SpaceX has secured a $ 2.9 billion NASA contract to build a lunar lander and deliver American astronauts to the lunar surface for the first time in five decades. The fixed-price contract is a major vote of confidence for Elon Musk’s rocket company, as the space agency is placing a large amount of responsibility for its cornerstone human spaceflight program, known as Artemis, on SpaceX.
Elon’s company bypassed its main competitor — the Blue Origin project of Jeff Bezos, as well as several other companies like Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman. SpaceX is now visibly overtaking Blue Origin and other spaceship companies as NASA’s primary partner in its manned space flight program.
SpaceX’s global mission is the development of a giant rocket called Starship, which aims to deliver people to Mars, but the rocket’s first target is to land NASA astronauts on the moon.
The SpaceX contract develops NASA’s strategy of relying on private companies to deliver astronauts, cargo, and exploration robots into space. However, before landing the Astronauts in the new Elon Musk rocket, NASA will require a successful demonstration launch with a real landing on the lunar surface.
US plans to return to the moon by 2024 were announced during the presidency of Donald Trump. But the flight schedule was deemed unrealistic after Congress failed to provide the requested funding, and NASA now had to revise the schedule.
The NASA program is expected to begin its first uncrewed exploration either late this year or early next.
SpaceX is an aviation and aerospace company that designs, manufactures, and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft. The company is the second most valued startup in the United States.