‘Skull’ Starship Lunar Lander Demonstration Doesn’t Need to Lift Off the Moon – SpacePolicyOnline.com

NASA does not require SpaceX to prove that its Starship crewed landing system can take off from the lunar surface before being used on the Artemis III mission, and the test vehicle will be the “skeleton” of the actual lander. NASA chose SpaceX to build the lander for Artemis III and then conduct an uncrewed test flight, but the head of the NASA HLS program said today that the demonstration did not include liftoff. She also emphasized that Starship is still in the design and development phase, faces many challenges, and is not as ready as some believe.

SpaceX’s two-stage Starship space transportation system is stacked for the first time, August 6, 2021, in Boca Chica, Texas. The silver first tier is called Super Heavy, and the second tier, covered with black thermal protection tiles, is the starship, and the name is also used to refer to both of them. Credit: SpaceX

Lisa Watson-Morgan, HLS program manager at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, joined other NASA officials this morning to discuss with NASA’s Lunar Exploration Analysis Team 13 recently selected areas at the lunar south pole for the Artemis III landing.

Artemis III will return humans to the lunar surface for the first time since the Apollo program. NASA currently expects to land in late 2025, a little more than three years from now.

SpaceX has been developing Starship for years. Between December 2020 and May 2021, the second-stage prototype made five test flights at an altitude of around 10 kilometers. The first four ended in flames, but the fifth succeeded. Although a “fit check” of the fully assembled vehicle has been carried out at SpaceX’s test facility in Boca Chica, Texas, the larger first stage has yet to fly.

SpaceX founder and chief engineer Elon Musk tweeted yesterday that putting Starship into orbit is one of his two main goals this year.

SpaceX plans to use Starship for a variety of purposes — launching satellites into Earth orbit and launching people and cargo to the moon and Mars. The name Starship is used both for the entire vehicle and for the second stage.

This is the second stage into the moon.

However, Starship is not designed to fly directly to the moon like NASA’s Space Launch System. Instead, the first stage only places it in Earth orbit. To go a step further, it must be filled with propellant in an orbital fuel depot that has yet to be built. Other starships are required to deliver propellant to the warehouse.

Watson-Morgan described the concept of operations for Starship’s Artemis III mission, starting with a fuel depot launch, followed by a series of “propellant aggregation” launches to fill the fuel depot, followed by the launch of the Starship to the moon.

Her slide shows four propellant fusion launches, but that’s not a definitive number. “How much? Whatever is needed, that’s the number of launches,” she said.

Source: NASA

SpaceX and NASA are collaborating to demonstrate cryogenic fluid management in orbit, “We still have a lot of challenges to overcome.”

“You can…may feel their [SpaceX’s] The system is ready. still has not now. We are designing and developing. … we’re still in development. We are still changing. We’re going to get smarter, and then we’re going to have an incredible launch, and we’re going to have an incredible landing. ” Lisa Watson Morgan

Before the two NASA astronauts land on Artemis III, an uncrewed test will take place in 2024, but she explained that NASA only requires SpaceX to demonstrate a safe landing. Not liftoff.

“The uncrewed demo doesn’t have to be the same starship you see in the manned demo. It’s going to be a skeleton because it just needs to land. Just to be clear, it doesn’t have to lift. Obviously, we want to Want it, but the requirement is that it land.” Lisa Watson Morgan

Illustration of SpaceX’s Starship lunar lander. Note the proportions of astronauts on the bottom of the lander.

The discussion is in the context of the scientific investigation that can be done on the Artemis III mission. NASA worked with SpaceX and a select group of scientists to select 13 areas where landings at the lunar south pole could take place. NASA is now seeking input from the wider lunar science community to narrow the list.

Many factors come into play, especially lighting conditions, which are very different from the six Apollo landing sites near the equator. Antarctica is of great scientific interest, and its permanently shadowed area is thought to contain water ice that could be used to support human outposts and other purposes.

Shown here are renderings of 13 candidate landing areas for Artemis III. Each area is approximately 9.3 x 9.3 miles (15 x 15 kilometers). The landing site is a location within these areas within a radius of approximately 328 feet (100 meters).Credit: NASA

A scientist in the audience expressed concern about whether the crew would actually be able to travel to and from the ground for scientific research. Starships are tall and have elevators to get up and down.

Watson-Morgan guarantees it will work. The elevator is multi-fault tolerant, and NASA and SpaceX are working together to test it, including with the crew, she said.

Logan Kennedy, head of HLS Surface at Marshall, presented two slides showing the progress being made. The second slide shows what people will look like the next time they step on the moon, he said.

He also expressed confidence in the elevator. One concern is lunar dust, which sticks to everything and can foul machinery. He insisted that the elevator was designed to operate in that environment, and that there was a lot of conservatism built into the model because so little was known about the lunar soil — the regolith — at the South Pole compared to the Apollo sites.

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