the lunar module chosen by NASA for Artemis


SHIP. NASA has announced that the Starship spacecraft will carry astronauts to the Moon as part of the Artemis missions. The rocket that will become the most powerful in the world is still in the testing phase and has yet to fly.

After being selected for the Artemis 3 mission, SpaceX’s Starship spacecraft was chosen again by NASA for the following mission: Artemis 4. Predicted by the American space agency for 2025, the Artemis 3 mission should allow Man to set foot on lunar soil again. , for the first time since 1972 during the Apollo program. The Starship spacecraft will carry astronauts between the Orion capsule and the lunar surface. During the next mission, Artemis 4, the Starship will serve as a shuttle between the Moon and the Lunar Gateway, the station placed in orbit around the Moon. The SpaceX company, led by billionaire Elon Musk, is gradually approaching its lifelong ambition: to conquer the planet Mars.

The Starship rocket, which consists of the Super Heavy launcher topped by the Starship spacecraft, is the most powerful rocket ever designed. It will therefore dethrone the NASA SLS launcher, currently holding the title. On November 14, 2022, fourteen of the rocket’s thirty-three engines were tested in Texas at Boca Chica Village. Elon Musk, the leader of SpaceX, said he was satisfied with this test that will allow testing all thirty-three engines of the machine in the coming weeks. This phase will be decisive, because depending on the result, the Starship rocket will be able to carry out its first test flight during the month of December, reports Ciel & Espace magazine.🇧🇷

What is SpaceX’s Starship?

The Starship is a rocket developed by the company SpaceX that is composed of a launcher, the Super Heavy, topped by the Starship spacecraft. It is on board the latter that the astronauts of the Artemis 3 and Artemis 4 missions will land on lunar soil.

From a performance standpoint, the Starship rocket is on track to become the most powerful ever used and thus dethrone NASA’s SLS launcher. The entire rocket has a total of thirty-three Raptor engines. The upper part, Starship, was designed to be available in different versions depending on needs.

SpaceX’s Starship rocket is the largest and most powerful ever built. This rocket is composed of an extremely powerful launcher, the Super Heavy, capable of returning to land on Earth to serve again, topped by a Starship spacecraft that is also intended to be reusable. Its unparalleled power is achieved through thirty-three Raptor engines using liquid methane as fuel.

During liftoff, the first stage, called the Super Heavy, propels the rocket into the sky. Once in the upper atmosphere, it detaches from the top, spins around, and lands back on Earth, spreading its feet for a smooth landing. In turn, the upper part, the Starship, starts its engines and continues its journey through space on its own.

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Riding the Starship on its Super Heavy Launcher © UPI/Newscom/SIPA (published on 11/21/2022)

When and where will Starship’s first launch take place?

SpaceX’s Starship rocket has been expected for several years and is overdue. In September 2022, the ultra-powerful launcher successfully ignited seven of its thirty-three engines for the first time. On the following November 14th, fourteen of them were conclusively tested. The first test flight of the Starship rocket is scheduled for December 2022, according to NASA.

Will the Starship land on the Moon?

SpaceX’s Starship is a lunar module that will be used to carry astronauts on the Artemis 3 and 4 missions to the Moon. It will thus land on the lunar surface in 2025 and 2027 according to the provisional calendar and will thus allow the great return of Man to the Moon. But before getting there, Starship will have to prove its worth through a test flight during which it will have to land safely on the lunar surface.

Starship is unlike any traditional lander. It is particularly large and introduces new technical constraints. This is how SpaceX plans to equip its spacecraft with an elevator that will allow astronauts to go from the cabin to the lunar surface.

What are the Starship missions inside Artemis?

Starship is one of the main elements of the first manned missions of the Artemis program. This is the landing module, that is, the spacecraft that will travel between the Orion capsule and the lunar surface. Indeed, the Orion capsule will take astronauts into lunar orbit, but it is not designed to land on the moon. The ship will do this job. It will start by docking with Orion to allow astronauts to move from one ship to another and will take them to the lunar surface. At the end of the mission, the astronauts will return aboard the Starship, which will lift off and join the Orion spacecraft. The latter will return to Earth in a few days.

When the Lunar Gateway base, placed in orbit around the Moon, is operational, the Starship spacecraft will have the role of transporting the latter to the Moon. If the schedule is respected, this should be the case for the Artemis 4 mission, scheduled for 2027.

What is the new Starship ordered by NASA?

The Starship exists in several versions for very different missions. The version used during the Artemis 3 mission is the HLS (Human Landing System), which is a lunar module. However, for Artemis 4, NASA is thinking bigger. The US space agency therefore ordered an improved version of the Starship from SpaceX. It will have to be able to carry a greater number of astronauts on board and allow them to stay longer on the Moon, explains SciencePost magazine.

How big is the starship?

The Starship rocket measures a total of 120 meters in height and 9 meters in diameter, making it the largest rocket ever built. Thus, it dethrones the Saturn V rocket that sent the first astronauts to the Moon during the Apollo missions. Its size is disproportionate to NASA’s SLS launcher, which reaches 98 meters in height when equipped with the Orion capsule. Only the Starship, that is, the upper part of the rocket, measures 50 meters in height and weighs 1,200 tons.

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Starship in its Super Heavy Launcher © UPI/Newscom/SIPA (published on 03/10/2022)

How much does the Starship rocket cost?

SpaceX has not disclosed the total price for the construction of the Starship rocket, but we do know the value of the contract that was signed between Elon Musk’s company and NASA for the various Artemis missions involving SpaceX. So, for Artemis 3, NASA paid 2.89 billion dollars. For Artemis 4 and the new version of the Starship spacecraft, the contract is worth 1.15 billion dollars.

In addition, the company SpaceX has revealed the prices it hopes to be able to offer for its Starship rocket launch services. Elon Musk thus intends to break the prices of the space economy by proposing a price of 2 million dollars per flight while the SLS costs 2 billion dollars.

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