NASA has commenced development of the Lunar Gateway, an orbital platform that will act as a home for astronauts studying the moon. The agency has awarded the first contract for its Gateway space station to SpaceX.
The base of the delivery system is the Falcon Heavy (above), the world’s most powerful operational rocket. Dragon XL capsule will be responsible for shipping key supplies to the lunar space station, as much as 5 metric tons of supplies. It can seat seven and launch with 6,000 kg of payload mass and land safely with 3,000 kg. “Returning to the Moon and supporting future space exploration requires affordable delivery of significant amounts of cargo,” SpaceX President and Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell said. "We are honored to continue the work beyond Earth’s orbit and carry Artemis cargo to Gateway,” he added.
The expeditions are scheduled for as early as 2024.The capsule will stay docked at the station for up to 12 months. Astronauts aboard the Gateway will be tasked with conducting science experiments and preparing for spacewalks and lunar excursions. However, the development of both the SLS rocket and Orion capsule, which the agency hopes will carry Artemis astronauts to the moon, has been delayed due the coronavirus.