NASA concerned SpaceX’s Starship schedule could delay moon landing – Spaceflight Now (2023)

NASA concerned SpaceX’s Starship schedule could delay moon landing – Spaceflight Now (1)

A senior NASA official raised concerns Wednesday that “difficulties” with SpaceX’s development of the huge new Starship rocket could delay the Artemis program’s first moon landing with astronauts from late 2025, a mission that will use a derivative of the Starship vehicle to ferry a two-person crew to and from the lunar surface.

Jim Free, head of NASA’s exploration systems development mission directorate, said SpaceX has much work to do before the Starship is cleared to land astronauts on the moon. NASA’s current schedule puts the Artemis program’s first astronaut landing on the moon, on the Artemis 3 mission, in late 2025.

“For Artemis 3, I mentioned that December ’25 is our current manifest date,” Free said Wednesday in a meeting of the National Academies’ Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board. “But with the difficulties that SpaceX has had, I think that’s really concerning. So you can think about that slipping probably into ’26.”

Before the Starship can fly to the moon, SpaceX needs to successfully launch the spacecraft into orbit. SpaceX’s first integrated test flight of the Starship, on top of its 33-engine Super Heavy booster, took off from the company’s Starbase facility in South Texas on April 20. SpaceX declared the test flight a success, with the Super Heavy booster and Starship clearing the launch pad and arcing over the Gulf of Mexico, beaming valuable data on its performance back to the ground for analysis by engineers.

The rocket then spun out of control after multiple engine failures, but a self-destruct system finally engaged to blow up the vehicle.

SpaceX ground teams are repairing damage to the launch pad in Texas and beefing up ground infrastructure before attempting a second Super Heavy/Starship test launch. Elon Musk, SpaceX’s founder and CEO, has suggested the launch site could be ready for another test flight by late summer.

(Video) NASA's Concerns with SpaceX Starship Delay, CRS-28 and ULA Vulcan Test Fire

NASA concerned SpaceX’s Starship schedule could delay moon landing – Spaceflight Now (2)

The Starship moon lander is not the only element of NASA’s Artemis architecture that may cause a delay in the Artemis 3 moon landing. NASA selected Axiom Space last year to develop a new spacesuit to protect astronauts walking on the moon, beginning with the Artemis 3 mission. The new spacesuit is more flexible than NASA’s existing decades-old bulky spacesuit design used for spacewalks at the International Space Station, making it better suited for walking in the reduced gravity environment at the moon.

NASA’s inspector general has identified the SpaceX Starship lander and the new spacesuits, both of which are being developed under commercial fixed-price contracts, as areas that could push back the Artemis 3 moon landing mission. The commercial procurement regime reduces the cost to NASA for development of the lander and spacesuits.

Free’s comments Wednesday focused on the progress of SpaceX’s Starship development, and were the first statements by a senior NASA official that the SpaceX moon lander could lead to a delay in the first Artemis moon landing.

“We have a firm fixed price contract with SpaceX, their job is to deliver that to us,” Free said. “And I’m going to hold them accountable to it. So I get a lot of questions, will you make the date? Well, they need to get flying before we can get any kind of assessment.”

NASA awarded a $2.9 billion contract to SpaceX in 2021 to provide a Starship vehicle as the Human Landing System for the Artemis 3 mission, which aims to become the first crew landing on the moon since 1972. The SpaceX proposal for the Human Landing System was the least expensive bid in the 2021 procurement, and has more cargo capacity than other bidders. Since then, NASA inked a contract with SpaceX for a second Starship lander for the Artemis 4 mission, and awarded a contract to Blue Origin for a human-rated lander for Artemis 5.

Under NASA’s current planning, the four-person crew on the Artemis 3 mission will lift off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on the agency’s Space Launch System moon rocket and Orion spacecraft, which were successfully test-flown around the moon last year on the unpiloted Artemis 1 mission. A second test flight of the SLS/Orion is scheduled for late 2024 on the Artemis 2 mission, which will send a crew of four around the far side of the moon before returning to Earth.

(Video) SpaceX Starship Problems Threaten NASA's Artemis Mission Schedule, ULA Vulcan Centaur Test Fire

On Artemis 3, the Orion capsule will carry the astronauts to the vicinity of the moon, where SpaceX’s human-rated Starship lander will be waiting.

The 15-story-tall Starship lander will take off on top of SpaceX’s new Super Heavy booster, an enormous rocket SpaceX is designing to be recoverable and reusable. After reaching low Earth orbit a few hundred miles above the planet, the Starship will be refilled with methane and liquid oxygen propellants using a series of Starship tanker vehicles. SpaceX’s Starship design will have multiple iterations, with tankers, propellant depots, moon landers, and satellite launch vehicles, and deep space crew transporters.

In lunar orbit, the Orion spacecraft will dock with the Starship lander, and two of the astronauts will float into the Starship to descend to a landing site near the moon’s south pole. Two astronauts will remain aboard the Orion capsule in lunar orbit.

After several days on the surface, including multiple spacewalks, the Starship will launch back into space and rendezvous with the Orion spacecraft to reunite the four-person crew, then Orion will return the astronauts to Earth.

NASA concerned SpaceX’s Starship schedule could delay moon landing – Spaceflight Now (3)

SpaceX and NASA have not disclosed an exact number of tanker launches required to support a single Starship flight to the moon. The company’s contract with NASA also covers an unpiloted Starship demo landing on the moon before the Artemis 3 mission.

“If you figure they need a number of launches to do their depot for our crewed flight, they need a number of launches to do the demo, they need a number of launches just to get flying, they have a significant number of launches to go,” Free said. “And that, of course, gives me concern about the December of 2025 date.”

(Video) SpaceX FINALLY changes assembly of new Starship Launch Pad!

Free said a major milestone before Starship’s unpiloted demonstration landing on the moon is a test of SpaceX’s ship-to-ship cryogenic propellant transfer system, a key technology required for any mission to send Starship beyond low Earth orbit. According to Free, NASA and SpaceX have delayed the critical design review for the Starship moon lander until SpaceX completes the ship-to-ship propellant transfer test.

The methane and liquid oxygen propellants used by the Raptor engines on the Starship vehicle are stored at super-cold temperatures. Without insulation, the propellants would gradually boil off when exposed to heating from the sun, adding a layer of complexity to refilling and storing the fuel and oxidizer in orbit. The methane and liquid oxygen propellant mix provides better efficiency than the room temperature but toxic hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide propellants used on NASA’s Apollo lunar lander.

Methane and liquid oxygen could eventually be generated from resources on the moon or Mars, another benefit in switching from hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide.

Free said NASA met with the Federal Aviation Administration recently to discuss the importance of the Starship rocket to the space agency’s moon exploration plans. The FAA is overseeing SpaceX’s investigation into the problems encountered on the April 20 test launch, when the flight termination system took longer to destroy the rocket than expected. The destruct system is designed to terminate the flight before an errant rocket threatens populated areas.

The FAA is not expected to grant SpaceX another Starship launch license until the investigation is complete, and federal regulators are satisfied with changes to the rocket to address any public safety concerns.

“They just have to get flying,” Free said of SpaceX. “When you step back and you look at (it), that’s a lot of launches to get those missions done, so our FAA partners are critical to that.”

(Video) SpaceX pushes the 2nd Starship orbital flight faster...

Free said SpaceX provided an updated Starship schedule to NASA last week. NASA officials are currently reviewing the plan. The fixed-price contract with SpaceX for the Human Landing System puts any additional costs associated with delays or design changes on the contractor, not on NASA.

“I do have a lot of concern about it, and my expectation is they’re going to deliver,” Free said. “It’s great that we have a firm fixed-price contract because these are not cost uppers to us. But the fact is, if they’re not flying on the time they said, it’s no good if we have a firm fixed-price contract, other than we’re not paying more, which is important.”

NASA concerned SpaceX’s Starship schedule could delay moon landing – Spaceflight Now (4)

Launching the Artemis 3 mission in 2026 is likely to still be a challenge, according to NASA’s inspector general, which reported in 2021 that based on the average delay of major NASA spaceflight programs, the moon lander may not be ready for crew flights until 2028.

NASA’s Artemis 4 mission is scheduled for launch in September 2028, a schedule that is also at risk because of delays in building a new mobile launch tower at the Kennedy Space Center. Artemis 4 requires a new launch platform because it will debut a larger Boeing-built upper stage on the SLS moon rocket, a development that could also put pressure on the 2028 launch schedule.

The more powerful Space Launch System rocket will carry a crew of four into space on an Orion spacecraft, along with an international habitation module to be assembled with NASA’s planned Gateway space station in lunar orbit. The first two elements of the Gateway station will launch toward the moon separately, without a crew, on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket.

NASA wants to launch Artemis missions on a cadence of one per year after 2028, but the agency and its contractors must reduce the cost of the SLS moon rocket and Orion spacecraft for that to be feasible.

(Video) After SLS FAILED Crucial Engine Test, Will NASA Switch To Starship For 2024 Moon Landing?

The agency’s inspector general has reported the first four Artemis missions will come at a cost of $4.1 billion per flight, a figure primarily driven by the cost of the SLS moon rocket and the Orion spacecraft. All the parts of the SLS rocket are single-use, while the Orion spacecraft, made by Lockheed Martin, is planned to eventually be reused for multiple flights.

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.


NASA concerned SpaceX’s Starship schedule could delay moon landing – Spaceflight Now? ›

A senior NASA official raised concerns Wednesday that “difficulties” with SpaceX's development of the huge new Starship rocket could delay the Artemis program's first moon landing with astronauts from late 2025, a mission that will use a derivative of the Starship vehicle to ferry a two-person crew to and from the ...

Why was SpaceX launch delayed today? ›

Thick cloud cover from evening thunderstorms did not clear in time for SpaceX to launch the Falcon 9 Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, delaying the liftoff by 24 hours.

What is the status of Artemis Mission? ›

Launch is scheduled no earlier than late November 2024. Artemis 3 (2025) is planned to be the first crewed lunar landing. The mission depends on a support mission to place a Starship Human Landing System (HLS) in place in a near-rectilinear halo orbit (NRHO) of the Moon prior to the launch of SLS/Orion.

How many moon landings have there been? ›

Apollo 11 was followed by six further trips to the Moon, five of which landed successfully. 12 men walked on the lunar surface in total. But in 1970 future Apollo missions were cancelled. Apollo 17 became the last crewed mission to the Moon, for an indefinite amount of time.

At what time will Artemis 1 launch? ›

Launch date: Nov. 16, 2022. Mission duration: 25 days, 10 hours, 53 minutes. Total distance traveled: 1.4 miIlion miles.

Why does NASA not launch anymore? ›

First — and perhaps most importantly — the program was wildly expensive. The average cost of a shuttle launch was a mind-boggling $450 million, far more than NASA had predicted. While the shuttle was proposed to make disposable rockets a thing of the past, it did exactly the opposite.

Did SpaceX launch get delayed? ›

SpaceX launched its 28th cargo mission to the International Space Station for NASA on Monday (June 5) after a two-day weather delay.

Why did we stop going to the Moon? ›

The demise was triggered when, in April 1970, an oxygen tank exploded two days after the launch of the Apollo 13 mission, threatening the lives of the astronauts on board. Missions after Apollo 17 were cancelled. But this was something of a pretext.

Why haven't we been back to the Moon? ›

So, why haven't they sent humans back to the moon yet? The two primary causes are money and priorities. The race to put people on the moon was sparked in 1962 by US President John F. Kennedy's 'We Choose to Go to the Moon' address, in which he pledged that by the end of the decade, an American would walk on the moon'.

How long will it take Artemis to get to the Moon? ›

After Artemis 1, it will take NASA 2 years to send astronauts to the moon. Why so long? Artemis 2 is scheduled to launch in 2024, but it may be tough for NASA to hit that target.

How many flags are on the Moon? ›

How many flags are on the Moon? A total of six flags have been planted on the Moon – one for each US Apollo landing.

How many Russian cosmonauts walked on the Moon? ›

Soviet cosmonauts never orbited nor landed on the Moon. Details of both Soviet programs were kept secret until 1990 when the government allowed them to be published under the policy of glasnost.

When did Russia land on the Moon? ›

A Moon landing or lunar landing is the arrival of a spacecraft on the surface of the Moon. This includes both crewed and robotic missions. The first human-made object to touch the Moon was the Soviet Union's Luna 2, on 13 September 1959.

Why is NASA using SLS instead of Starship? ›

Each rocket must carry heavy loads of materials into deep space. SLS has a payload capacity of 190,000lbs, and NASA has spent tremendous funds to accomplish this. Starship on the other hand has a payload capacity of 300,000lbs, and SpaceX is spending a lot less money to make that happen.

What is the largest rocket launch? ›

SpaceX launches first test flight of world's most powerful rocket before Starship explodes in midair. SpaceX's Starship — the biggest and most powerful rocket ever built — blasted off from the southern tip of Texas on Thursday morning.

Will I be able to see Artemis 1 in the sky? ›

The rocket and spacecraft will no longer be visible to the naked eye after reaching an altitude of 42,000 feet. Launch visibility is dependent upon several factors, including launch time and dates. To learn more about the Artemis I mission, follow NASA's Artemis blog for updates.

Is NASA in decline? ›

Funding NASA

NASA's spending peaked at almost 4.5 percent of the federal budget in 1966, declined to 1 percent by 1975, and has gradually fallen to about half a percent in recent years.

How many space shuttles failed? ›

There have been two space shuttles lost due to explosion. The Challenger shuttle exploded in 1986 due to a leak in it's fuel system causing the booster rockets to separate. This was followed on February 1st, 2003 with the Columbia explosion.

Was space shuttle program a failure? ›

While the shuttle did serve a purpose servicing satellites and space stations in orbit, it failed at its original goal of achieving routine, reliable access to space, partly due to multi-year interruptions in launches following Shuttle failures.

What went wrong with the Starship launch? ›

During its brief first flight more than a week ago, the gigantic Starship rocket made by SpaceX generated an unanticipated “rock tornado” at launch, and multiple engines failed as it headed upward before it somersaulted out of control.

How many launch failures has SpaceX had? ›

Since March 2006, SpaceX has launched 5 Falcon 1, 230 Falcon 9, 6 Falcon Heavy, and 1 Starship rockets. Of these, 3 Falcon 1, 2 Falcon 9 and 1 Starship launches were complete failures and 1 Falcon 9 launch were partial failures. As of May 2023, SpaceX has a 97.4% launch success rate.

How far away can you see a rocket launch from Cape Canaveral? ›

Playalinda Beach – Canaveral National Seashore

Located in the Canaveral National Seashore, Playalinda Beach is one the closest locations to view rocket launches on the Space Coast. With a short walk down the beach, you can be within 5 miles of the launch.

What is left on the Moon? ›

Some of it is waste from the trip that the astronauts dumped when they got to their destination. Aside from trash—from food packaging to wet wipes—nearly 100 packets of human urine and excrement have been discarded. The Apollo astronauts also dumped tools and television equipment that they no longer needed.

Is the flag of America still on the Moon? ›

Apart from the Apollo 11 flag, which is believed to have been lost, the others were planted during Apollo 12, 14, 15, 16 and 17. According to images captured by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter during different times of day, shadows in the areas where the flags were planted indicate they're still standing.

Do we have the technology to go to the Moon today? ›

Of course, those conditions don't exist today. The NASA workforce is one-tenth of what it used to be and funds are limited. The last 45 years have been spent building space shuttles and the International Space Station, which is why we don't have the technology to take people back to the moon.

How much would it cost to go to the Moon? ›

Cost To Go To the Moon

Taking that as 1973 dollars, that's roughly equivalent to a little over $157 billion in dollars today, or about $9.3 billion a year.

How much did it cost to go to the Moon in 1969? ›

How much did it cost to go to the moon in 1969? NASA's total budget appropriations for the Apollo Program through 1969 was $16.1 billion per official documents. The total cost of the Apollo Program up through about 1974 was $25.4 billion. Both amounts are unadjusted for inflation.

How much money did it cost to go to the Moon? ›

How much did the Apollo program cost?
Project Apollo, 1960 - 1973ActualInflation Adjusted
Direct Project Costs$20.6 billion$204 billion
Ground Facilities, Salaries, & Overhead$5.2 billion$53 billion
Total Project Apollo$25.8 billion$257 billion
Robotic Lunar Program$907 million$10 billion
5 more rows

Who owns the Moon? ›

While United States astronauts were the first to visit the Moon, this does not mean that the United States owns it. In fact, under the 1967 Outer Space Treaty no country has a unique ownership in the Moon and all nations are accorded equal rights and access.

Will Orion be reused? ›

The Orion crew module (CM) is a reusable transportation capsule that provides a habitat for the crew, provides storage for consumables and research instruments, and contains the docking port for crew transfers.

Has any woman been on the Moon? ›

Only 12 human beings, all men and no women, have walked on the Moon. In 2020, NASA's communication director reported that NASA planned to land astronauts on the Moon, including possibly a woman astronaut or astronauts, as part of the U.S. Artemis program.

Is there a Russian flag on the Moon? ›

The spacecraft crash-landed on the surface of the moon, which was pre-planned, carrying the Soviet flag along with it. Technically, the Soviet flag was the first to reach the surface of the moon, where no man or machine had ever been before.

What flag has a Moon inside? ›

The national flag of Turkey, officially the Turkish flag (Turkish: Türk bayrağı), is a red flag featuring a white star and crescent from its emblem. The flag is often called "the red flag" (al bayrak), and is referred to as "the red banner" (al sancak) in the Turkish national anthem.

Did China put a flag on the Moon? ›

China has become the second country in history to put its flag on the moon, more than 50 years after the US first planted the Stars and Stripes.

What countries have put a man on the Moon? ›

To date, only one country has succeeded in landing humans on the moon: the United States of America.

Are there any other flags on the Moon? ›

How many countries have flags on the moon? The United States is the only country where people have physically placed flags on the moon. Four other countries — China, Japan, India and the former Soviet Union — and the European Space Agency have sent unmanned spacecraft or probes to the moon.

What ended the Space Race? ›

Most historians agree that the space race ended on 20 July 1969 when Neil Armstrong stepped onto the Moon for the first time. As the climax of space history and exploration, the lunar landing led to a triumph for the US.

Why did the Soviets not go to the Moon? ›

All along, the Soviet moon program had suffered from a third problem—lack of money. Massive investments required to develop new ICBMs and nuclear weapons so that the Soviet military could achieve strategic parity with the United States siphoned funds away from the space program.

Is Sputnik still in orbit? ›

The signals continued for 21 days until the transmitter batteries ran out on 26 October 1957. On 4 January 1958, after three months in orbit, Sputnik 1 burned up while reentering Earth's atmosphere, having completed 1,440 orbits of the Earth, and travelling a distance of approximately 70,000,000 km (43,000,000 mi).

What happened with SpaceX launch? ›

SpaceX's Starship rocket exploded on Thursday, minutes after lifting off from a launchpad in South Texas. The rocket, the most powerful ever built, did not reach orbit but provided important lessons for the private spaceflight company as it worked toward a more successful mission.

What is happening with SpaceX? ›

Vast announced today that SpaceX will launch what is expected to be the world's first commercial space station, known as Vast Haven-1, quickly followed by two human spaceflight missions to said space station. Scheduled to launch on a Falcon 9 rocket to low-Earth orbit no earlier than August 2025.

What time is SpaceX launch? ›

June 12, 2023 Launch Time: 3:10 am ET.

What time is NASA launch today? ›

The launch is scheduled for 10:38 a.m. EDT (1438 GMT) from the Kennedy Space Center, Florida.

Why is SpaceX being sued? ›

Environmental groups are suing the Federal Aviation Administration over the explosion of SpaceX's massive new rocket, saying that the agency allowed Elon Musk's company to bypass important environmental reviews because of political and financial influence.

Why was the space launch Cancelled? ›

While most of the countdown went smoothly, a crucial valve in the spacecraft froze over about 15 minutes before the planned launch. This prevented the first stage of the craft from pressurising properly, which would have made a launch dangerous if SpaceX officials had decided to go through with the attempt.

What did Elon Musk have to do with SpaceX? ›

The Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, commonly referred to as SpaceX is an American spacecraft manufacturer, launcher, and satellite communications company headquartered in Hawthorne, California. It was founded in 2002 by Elon Musk with the goal of reducing space transportation costs to colonization of Mars.

What went wrong with Starship launch? ›

During its brief first flight more than a week ago, the gigantic Starship rocket made by SpaceX generated an unanticipated “rock tornado” at launch, and multiple engines failed as it headed upward before it somersaulted out of control.

What is the success rate of SpaceX? ›

Since March 2006, SpaceX has launched 5 Falcon 1, 230 Falcon 9, 6 Falcon Heavy, and 1 Starship rockets. Of these, 3 Falcon 1, 2 Falcon 9 and 1 Starship launches were complete failures and 1 Falcon 9 launch were partial failures. As of May 2023, SpaceX has a 97.4% launch success rate.

What is SpaceX doing in 2023? ›

In 2023 we expect a total of five Falcon Heavy launches, the most ever attempted by SpaceX. The once king of launchers, dethroned by NASA's Space Launch System, is still the most powerful commercial rocket on the market, until Starship comes online.

What are the upcoming rocket launches 2023? ›

2023 Launch Schedule
  • Transporter 6 (Dedicated SSO Rideshare)Falcon 9 Block 5. SpaceX. ...
  • Shijian 23Long March 7A. China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation. ...
  • 5 satellitesCeres-1. Galactic Energy. ...
  • Start Me UpLauncherOne. ...
  • OneWeb 16Falcon 9 Block 5. ...
  • Maiden FlightRS1. ...
  • APStar 6ELong March 2C. ...
  • Yaogan 37 & Shiyan 22A/BLong March 2D.

What city is NASA in Florida? ›

NASA's Kennedy Space Center is located at Space Commerce Way, Merritt Island, FL 32953, USA.

How much do astronauts get paid? ›

Nasa Astronaut Salary
Annual SalaryMonthly Pay
Top Earners$60,000$5,000
75th Percentile$52,000$4,333
25th Percentile$40,000$3,333

What is the latest news in NASA? ›

  • News. Florida and Caribbean fight back against 5,000-mile seaweed blob.
  • Science. Astronomers 'find evidence of two planets under construction in distant star'
  • Space. Nasa's Webb telescope spots intriguing planet with water vapour.

Is there anyone in space right now? ›



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