On June 25, foreign media reported that the name of SpaceX spacecraft to carry out the lunar mission, known as the Dragon XL., was revealed Dragon XL will be able to deliver supplies to astronauts in Earth orbit in the future, or to supply NASA's (NASA) future lunar space station (Gateway).
The new SpaceX spacecraft was unexpectedly revealed earlier this year when it NASA awarded a separate multibillion-dollar Gateway logistics service contract. Dragon XL was built almost entirely from the hardware and systems of flight-proven cargo and manned spacecraft, which carried out more than 20 space station launches and two orbital missions, respectively.
However, with NASA changing plans and strategies, the agency is far from guaranteeing that it will actually build a lunar space station that will allow astronauts to stay, let alone achieve its goal of returning to the moon in 2024. Since Dragon XL uses a large number of proven technologies, its development should be a little easier for SpaceX.
As a result, dragon XL may be ready to fly months or even years before any lunar space station is in place, and astronauts can use it at any time. This possibility raises the question of whether NASA plans to conduct a dragon XL flight test before SpaceX's debut on the moon?
NASA arranged a demonstration mission before the launch of dragon XL's first critical lunar resupply mission, which was not surprising, and a cargo trip to the international space station (ISS) may be a valuable attempt. Dragon XL is actually a mixture of SpaceX's manned and cargo dragon spacecraft. It will lose the ability to send payloads back to the earth's surface (lower mass) in exchange for a significant increase in the upper mass of the payload.
According to NASA, the design goal of dragon XL is to deliver up to 7.6 tons of cargo to the lunar space station, including 5 tons of pressurized cargo, 2.6 tons of non pressurized cargo, and no more than 14 tons when arriving at the lunar space station. As a result, dragon XL offers 25-50% improvement over cargo dragon.
Dragon XL as a expendable spacecraft may be more recyclable and reusable than SpaceX
on the other hand, while Dragon XL task is inherently different and even more challenging in some ways, it is built on
excluding the demonstration mission to the international space station, the Dragon XL launched by the falcon 9 rocket could be an additional cheap option for NASA to deliver substantial supplies, hardware, and experiments to the space station, which is good for the reusability of the cargo dragon spacecraft and the enhancement of the lower quality capability. Of course, there is no contract to allow SpaceX to launch Dragon XL to the Lunar Space Station after completing two resupply missions. But according to Gateway deep space logistics manager Mark
At the end of the day, the possibility of Dragon XL being selected for the International Space Station cargo delivery is low. Obviously, however, it is possible for NASA to make more than two resupply missions to the lunar space station, using SpaceX substantial investment in new spacecraft.