SpaceX’s Starship wins M53 million from NASA for full-scale orbital refueling test

SpaceX's Starship wins M53 million from NASA for full-scale orbital refueling test

SpaceX’s starship program has won $ 53 million from NASA and is undergoing a full – scale test of orbital transmission, taking the relationship between the company and the space agency to the next level in critical technology.

On October 14, NASA announced the results of its fifth round of “tipping point” requests, announcing more than $ 370 million in awards to a total of 14 individual companies. This year’s investments focus on three main types: “Cryogenic fluid management, lunar surface [operations], And closed-loop [i.e. autonomous] Demonstrations of descent and landing ability. “

At the most predictable end, the total (6 176 million) went to Lockheed Martin and the United Launch Alliance (ULA), with the other half (9 189 million) split into the remaining twelve companies. Sadly, however, SpaceX awarded a substantial deal for an important aspect of starship development.

A starship is refueling in orbit. (SpaceX)

Today’s tipping point deal is technically the second time NASA has funded SpaceX for space transfer development. In October 2019, almost a year ago, SpaceX won 3 million cryogenic fluid connectors to “create and test” [prototypes] For large-scale space momentum transfer, ”Marking NASA’s first direct investment in Starship. NASA seems to be fully satisfied with the results of that ice cream test – enough to fund $ 53.2 million for the entire demonstration of the Starship ProPlant transaction.

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As Ers Berger of Ars Technica points out, NASA is investing eight figures in a SpaceX Starship Probation transfer demonstration – let alone a total of $ 250 million in four separate companies – which is a big surprise. In doing so, NASA is effectively testing the tolerance of political stakeholders in programs such as Orion and SLS – there are more plans to secure jobs and accelerate congressional partners. If a one-size-fits-all (s) cheaper and more efficient solution, such as launching and refueling orbited under NASA’s own scope, proves to be very difficult to preserve the traditional programs that cause nearly 20% of the space agency’s annual budget. A decade.

NASA says these round tipping point deals can last up to five years. Aside from the $ 41.6 million deal with Intuitive Engines to build a Moon Hopper spacecraft capable of orbiting the lunar surface, the most interesting awards focus on “cryogenic fluid management”. Etta Space received $ 27 million for a small-scale air demonstration of the complete cryogenic oxygen liquid management system to be injected into the electron rocket in conjunction with the Rocket Labin Photon spacecraft bus.

Lockheed Martin won $ 89.7 million to “test a dozen cryogenic liquid management technologies … to demonstrate in space using liquid hydrogen”. ULA, a member of Lockheed Martin, was awarded $ 86.2 million to test the Vulcan Center upper grid with “precise tank pressure control, tank-to-tank transfer and multi-week power saving”.

SpaceX has won NASA funding to create a custom starship variant designed to land astronauts on the moon. (SpaceX)

Finally, SpaceX won $ 53.2 million for a large-scale air demonstration to convert 10 metric tons. [liquid oxygen] Between the tanks in a starship vehicle. “Significantly, this indicates that NASA is effectively funding a ship orbit flight test, in which a starship prototype (mostly) attempts to transfer liquid oxygen between its main locks tank and the small‘ title ’tank.

SpaceX paid $ 135 million at the start of the April 2020 deal Starship design optimized for Moon landings, NASA is starting to put some serious money in there to develop a wide range of innovative solutions to help sustainable human space exploration.

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Cary Douglas

About the Author: Cary Douglas

Wayne Ma is a reporter who covers everything from oil trading to China's biggest conglomerates and technology companies. Originally from Chicago, he is a graduate of New York University's business and economic reporting program.

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