SpaceX will launch the part of the station where the astronauts will actually live.
NASA has chosen SpaceX to launch the first parts of the Lunar Gateway, a crewed outpost about a tenth the size of the International Space Station. The plan is for it to orbit the Moon — where it will be a stepping stone for future Artemis missions to the lunar surface.
A SpaceX Falcon Heavy, a reusable heavy-lift rocket that has only launched three times since 2018, will carry NASA's Power and Propulsion Element (PPE) and Habitation and Logistics Outpost (HALO) from launch Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida no sooner than May 2024, according to the agency.
It's a major coup for SpaceX — which will get paid a whopping $331.8 million for the project — and potentially a huge step toward sending humans back to the Moon.
The PPE is a spacecraft that will allow the outpost to communicate with the Earth, control attitudes, and push the Gateway into various lunar orbits.
HALO is where astronauts will actually spend time while waiting to get down to the lunar surface. It will also serve as the docking hub and support science investigations as well as supplementing life support systems aboard Orion, the agency's spacecraft designed to ferry astronauts to the Gateway.
If all goes well, the first crewed mission of the Artemis program, Artemis 2, is scheduled to launch in 2023 and carry four astronauts around the Moon. The mission sets the stage for Artemis 3, the first crewed flight that includes a Moon landing scheduled for 2024, with two of the astronauts staying behind on board the Gateway.
READ MORE: NASA Awards Contract to Launch Initial Elements for Lunar Outpost [NASA]
More on the Gateway: NASA HIRES SPACEX TO SUPPLY LUNAR GATEWAY SPACE STATION