Landing astronauts on the Moon will require almost 20 Starship launches

The implementation of the Artemis III mission will require almost two dozen Starship launches. This was stated by Lakiesha Hawkins, assistant deputy administrator of NASA for the Moon–Mars program. 

The Starship Human Landing System (HLS) spacecraft for the Artemis III mission (concept). Source: SpaceX

In 2021, SpaceX won a contract to deliver the astronauts of the Artemis III expedition to the Moon. It was subsequently expanded to include the Artemis IV mission. 

To solve this problem, SpaceX plans to use a modification of Starship called Starship HLS. The flight plan assumes that the Orion spacecraft with astronauts will dock with Starship HLS in a selenocentric orbit, after which they will board it and land at the South Pole of the Moon

However, in order for Starship HLS to reach the Moon, it will first need to be refuelled in space. SpaceX plans to create a fuel storage facility in near-Earth orbit, which will be refuelled by tanker spacecraft. The main question now is how many flights may be needed. In the past, Elon Musk claimed that this could require from four to eight launches. But apparently, everything is much more complicated. According to NASA estimates, a two-digit number of flights may be required to fill the storage. The arithmetic is quite simple: Starship tanks hold 1,200 tons of fuel, while the spacecraft can take about a hundred tons of cargo into low Earth orbit. But it is also necessary to take into account the boiling factor, due to which the storage may eventually lose some of the fuel.

Starship launch. Source: SpaceX

At the same time, in order to meet the schedule, tanker launches should be carried out in a six-day rotation mode. Therefore, SpaceX will have to use two spaceports at once: its base in Boca Chica, as well as the LC-39A launch pad at Cape Canaveral, which is now being converted to Starship. 

NASA also emphasises that although Starship HLS is one of the most important components of the Artemis III mission, it is influenced by a number of other factors. For example, the readiness of the new lunar spacesuits currently being developed by Axiom Space.

Currently, the launch of Artemis III is formally scheduled for the end of 2025. But almost no one doubts that it will be postponed.

According to

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