NASA tests Canoo Astronaut transport vehicles at KSC

Back in April, NASA chose Canoo to build the electric vehicles that will bring astronauts to the launchpad for the Artemis program. Since then, Canoo and NASA have brought the vehicles around Kennedy Space Center, from the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout building to the launchpad that will return astronauts to the Moon.

Over the past Month, Canoo has shared photos and videos of its van out and around Kennedy Space Center, where they will eventually carry Astronauts to launchpad LC-39B ahead of their flight to the Moon on SLS.

Previous Crew Transport Vehicles

NASA began its search for a Crew Transport vehicle last year, with application needed by October. The transport vehicles began with the Apollo program, with modified Clark-Cortez motorhome being used to bring Apollo astronauts to the launchpad to board their Saturn rockets. The vehicle served through the start of the shuttle program before being replaced with a larger vehicle, an Itasca Suncruiser M-22RB, due to increasing crew size.

That vehicle only served for two launches before being replaced with the most iconic crew transport vehicle, and Airstream Excella. This vehicle earned a popular name, the Astrovan.

The iconic Astrovan. Image credit: NASA/ Jim Grossmann

The Astrovan remained in service through the end of the shuttle program, but with the commercial crew program both Boeing and SpaceX have chosen their own transportation options. SpaceX has, quite fittingly, been using white Tesla Model X vehicles to bring both private and NASA Astronauts to the Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon vehicles at LC-39A. Boeing worked with Airstream for a direct successor to the Astrovan, the Astrovan II – a modified Airstream Atlas.

Canoo’s Crew Transportation vehicles

Canoo’s vehicle will be used by NASA for the Artemis missions, which will bring the first person of color and the first woman to the Moon as we return to our celestial neighbor for the first time since the Apollo program. The SLS rocket will launch the astronauts, while the Orion capsule will carry the astronauts into lunar orbit and SpaceX’s Starship will bring them to the lunar surface. Before the astronauts can ride on any of those vehicles, though, they will hop inside Canoo’s electric vehicles to bring them to the launch pad.

The first launch of SLS is set to launch next month, but that will be an uncrewed test flight. On Artemis II, astronauts will enter Lunar orbit, and Artemis III is set to feature the first lunar lander of the program in 2025.

In a press release shortly after the company’s selection as NASA’s contractor, the company explained how the CTV must carry fully suited astronauts as well as flight support staff and additional equipment to the launch site. The vehicles are based on the company’s upcoming Lifestyle Vehicle, an SUV type electric vehicle with up to a 250 mile range that starts at $34,750. The contract NASA awarded the company back in April was for almost $150K.

In the time since, some of the vehicles have been ridden in by passengers in suits and brought around to a few locations at Kennedy Space Center, from the VAB and Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout building to the launchpad LC-39B. Some Canoo vehicles are being stored near the former Shuttle Landing Facility well ahead of their first operational use on Artemis II.

While the company had major losses during the start of the year, it has still been receiving new contracts, as Walmart ordered up to 10,000 EVs and the US Army is exploring options with the company’s multi-purpose platform.

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