NASA Awards SpaceX a Second Starship Crewed Lunar Landing Demonstration Mission

Artist concept of the SpaceX Starship on the surface of the Moon. (Credits: SpaceX)

NASA has awarded a $1.15 billion contract modification to SpaceX for a second crewed landing demonstration mission in 2027 as part of NASA’s Artemis IV mission.

In April 2021, NASA awarded a $2.9 billion contract to SpaceX for a crewed landing demonstration on the Artemis III mission. The flight would be proceeded by an uncrewed landing test. The contract modification raises NASA’s human landing system awards to $4.05 billion.

“Returning astronauts to the Moon to learn, live, and work is a bold endeavor. With multiple planned landers, from SpaceX and future partners, NASA will be better positioned to accomplish the missions of tomorrow: conducting more science on the surface of the Moon than ever before and preparing for crewed missions to Mars,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.

The announcement came on the eve of NASA’s successful launch of its Artemis I mission to the moon. The Space Launch System successfully launched an uncrewed Orion spacecraft on a 26-day checkout mission to orbit the moon.

Astronauts are scheduled to fly to the moon on an Orion spacecraft on the Artemis II mission in 2024. That would be followed by two astronauts landing on the moon aboard SpaceX’s HLS on Artemis III no earlier than 2025.

NASA said the goals of the second demonstration mission are to land four crew members and additional mass to the lunar surface. The vehicle will also dock with the lunar Gateway, a human-tended space station in orbit around the moon.

“Continuing our collaborative efforts with SpaceX through Option B furthers our resilient plans for regular crewed transportation to the lunar surface and establishing a long-term human presence under Artemis,” said Lisa Watson-Morgan, manager for the HLS program at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. “This critical work will help us focus on the development of sustainable, service-based lunar landers anchored to NASA’s requirements for regularly recurring missions to the lunar surface.”

NASA is pursuing the development of human landing vehicles from other companies under a solicitation released earlier this year.