NASA awarded SpaceX a contract to develop a new dragon variant, named the Dragon XL, to transport cargo to the Lunar Gateway as part of the Artemis program.
The agency selected SpaceX to deliver cargo to the Gateway, which Spacex would assemble in an elliptical or egg-shaped orbit around the Moon. This cargo would include spacesuits, and other equipment astronauts need on the Gateway and the Moon.
NASA, SpaceX, and dragon XL
SpaceX will use the Dragon XL spacecraft to resupply the Gateway station with supplies and equipment. The cargo vessel will stay at the station for 6 to 12 months.
NASA is incorporating innovative thinking from the commercial sector into its supply chain. It is helping crews prepare for lunar surface missions. The agency intends to use the new request for information to decide whether to on-ramp its existing Dragon Xl contract with SpaceX.
The space agency asked for responses to eight questions. The questions suggest the scope of GLS is expanding. For example, interested companies can provide a dedicated delivery tug or rapid response delivery service.
NASA expressed an interest in cargo transport capabilities beyond the original contract requirements. Nasa and SpaceX are already developing a Starship that Spacex has proposed. This Starship could beat Dragon XL’s cargo capabilities by a factor of 5, 10, or even 20.
NASA is considering using SpaceX’s Dragon XL as a crew cabin or bathroom on the Gateway. Still, there are technical challenges and reasons to believe that Starship can’t easily replace Dragon XL.