Falcon Heavy to launch Lunar Gateway

NASA recently announced that they have selected SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy launch vehicle for the very first two elements for the planned Lunar Gateway. They will use Falcon Heavy to simultaneously launch the Power and Propulsion, and Habitation and Logistics Outpost into lunar orbit. The mission is targeting no earlier than May of 2024.

Illustration of the two elements in Lunar Orbit. Credit: NASA

Once operational, the Gateway will serve as a critical stop for astronauts on the way to the moon. Astronauts will journey to the Gateway in Orion, atop NASA’s new SLS rocket. Gateway’s planned highly elliptical orbit will come as close as 3,000km and as far as 70,000km from the surface of the moon. In order to land on the surface of the moon, astronauts must then move to the selected human landing system. Currently SpaceX, Blue Origin and Dynetics are hoping to be selected to provide the human landing system

Returning humans to the surface of the moon is no small task, and is reliant on the work of many different space companies working alongside NASA. Lockheed Martin and Airbus are the primary manufacturers for the Orion capsule. SLS is of course a NASA rocket, and Blue Origin, SpaceX and ULA are all expected to launch payloads in support of Artemis on their New Glenn, Falcon Heavy, and Vulcan vehicles respectively. Timelines for launches are ever changing, as safety is paramount, and any complications in successful testing can delay launches. As of now, it is possible we see Artemis 1 launch, un-crewed, before the end of the year, but it will be a few years until we see a crewed launch.