NASA contracts SpaceX for supply missions to Gateway outpost
NASA has selected SpaceX to carry cargo to the space agency's deep-space Gateway outpost. Under the first Gateway Logistics Services contract to be awarded to a US company, SpaceX will deliver pressurized and unpressurized supplies, experiments, and items to the Gateway station, which will be used for the Artemis program to return American astronauts to the lunar surface and establish a permanent manned presence there.
When we see something like the International Space Station (ISS) or the planned Gateway outpost, it's easy to overlook the fact that these aren't self-sufficient entities, but fragile bases on the final frontier that can only be sustained by a constant flow of supplies. In the case of Gateway, though it's smaller than the ISS, it will be even more dependent on its logistics because of its task to conduct lunar missions and to rehearse for the first manned flight to Mars.
In support of this, NASA is arranging for a number of cargo missions that will visit the Gateway and stay there for between six months and a year. These will be carried out by other private companies in addition to SpaceX operating under firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contracts for logistics services, with each provider guaranteed two missions each. The total maximum value for all mission contracts is US$7 billion.
According to the space agency, the Gateway Logistics Services contract will provide supply flights for up to 12 years with a 15-year performance period in support of missions by NASA, overseas partners, and private companies.
"We’re making significant progress moving from our concept of the Gateway to reality," says Dan Hartman, Gateway program manager at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. "Bringing a logistics provider onboard ensures we can transport all the critical supplies we need for the Gateway and on the lunar surface to do research and technology demonstrations in space that we can’t do anywhere else. We also anticipate performing a variety of research on and within the logistics module."