While Blue Origin continues to attack SpaceX’s award of the Human Lander System contract for Artemis, SpaceX remains hard at work towards the first orbital launch from their “non-existent” spaceport. More so, Elon has criticized Bezos for holding back the Artemis program in the very ways that Bezos has previously spoken against.
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SpaceX’s role in NASA’s Artemis program
Starship lunar lander HLS award
Since NASA first selected SpaceX to provide the human landing system for Artemis, Blue Origin and Dynetics have been protesting their win. NASA had originally planned to select two landing systems in order to provide redundancy, however as a result of the available funding (and in line with their contracts) they opted to only award one to SpaceX for Starship.
While the GAO protest was denied, Blue Origin continues to fight for a spot both in court and online. Blue Origin has continued attacking their competitors with the release of a series of graphics criticizing Starship.
While Elon may be known for his childish humor from time to time, it is odd to see these actions coming from the companies themselves rather than an individual.
Elon responded to the graphics simply, stating that 16 launches being necessary is unlikely. A lunar starship won’t need the same heat shield and flaps as a Starship landing on Earth, due to the lack of atmosphere. With the reduced mass and lower gravity of the moon, a lunar Starship would not need to be entirely filled, and will potentially need somewhere between four and eight flights.
He continued by pointing out the Bezos proclivity for lawsuits. Notably, SpaceX themselves have both sued and protested contract awards in the past, but this particular battle seems to feature a lot more public mud-slinging.
Elon offers to build EVA suits
Elon may be confident in SpaceX ability to have Starship ready for Artemis, but NASA’s new EVA space suits will not be. The new suits for Artemis will cost over a billion dollar before they are ready for flight, which won’t be until at least April of 2025.
In response to this Elon criticized the 27 contractors and vendors being used to produce the suits as “too many cooks in the kitchen” and said SpaceX could do it.
The one billion dollar cost is notably more than Falcon 9 and cargo Dragon development.
Orbital Starship work continues at Starbase
As more behind the scenes work continues on Lunar Starship, SpaceX’s work towards the first orbital flight of Starship is on full display down in Boca Chica. While Starship 20 and booster 4 were rolled back to the high bay following stacking, the two will be returning to the Orbital launch pad soon.
This fast pace is illustrated by Elon’s new timeline to have the Orbital stack ready for launch: a few weeks.
Already being in mid-August, we’re well past the original July target, but that’s far from surprising. While in a few weeks Starship and Superheavy may be physically ready for flight, we are still waiting for the Environmental review which will be the main cause for delay.
‘Mechazilla’ Starship catching mechanism
While we haven’t seen any official look from SpaceX at what the catching mechanism for Starship will look like, Elon’s reply to ErcXspace‘s render gives a better idea of what the final catching tower will be.
With the launch tower catching both Starship and the Super Heavy booster, a launch of Super Heavy will certainly be a sight to behold.
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