If SpaceX desires its massive next-generation spacecraft to reach the moon and planets beyond, CEO Elon Musk says it will have to be refueled in orbit around Earth, and NASA desires to know more.
In the early test flight phase prototype, Starship is made with a stainless steel crewed craft that can launch atop a Super Heavy booster. However, due to its dimension and potentially heavy payloads like dozens or hundreds of astronauts in the future, it’ll need to be refueled in orbit around Earth before it begins longer voyages.
SpaceX, Musk mentioned, is developing the technologies essential to dock two Starships together in orbit one without much in the direction of crew or payloads and transfer fuel to the one venturing beyond Low-Earth orbit.
To further the technology, NASA recently granted SpaceX a $3 million contract to research the concepts; on Friday, Administrator Jim Bridenstine mentioned throughout a joint press conference with Musk.
“Starship is a massive vehicle,” Bridenstine informed the news on Thursday. “Being able to refuel, it will be essential to become a vehicle that can get to the moon.”
The technology for docking spacecraft and transfer propellants also other requirements have a history in spaceflight, however doing so autonomously and in additional modern methods has long been sought after by NASA, satellite operators, and for the Department of Defense.
Holding that capability could mean spacecraft similar to Starship go on longer voyages, or it could assist existing satellites in orbit around Earth stay in their positions longer without having to shut down because of fuel depletion. And it does not have to be fuel such docking maneuvers could assist pave the way for in-orbit repairs and servicing, too.