NASA has growing concerns that the lunar lander version of SpaceX’s Starship vehicle will not be ready in time for the Artemis 3 mission in late 2025, given the amount of work needed to get the vehicle ready.
Speaking at a joint meeting of the National Academies’ Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board and Space Studies Board June 7, Jim Free, NASA associate administrator for exploration systems development, said Artemis 3, which would feature the first human landing on the moon in more than half a century, was in danger of being delayed from December 2025 to some time in 2026.
Free said NASA’s concern is the number of launches of Starship that SpaceX has to carry out to be ready for Artemis 3. Each Starship lander mission requires launching the Starship lander itself as well as several “tanker” Starships to fuel the lander in Earth orbit before it goes to the moon. Before Artemis 3, SpaceX will carry out an uncrewed Starship lunar landing, and also must demonstrate cryogenic fluid transfer in Earth orbit.
“That’s a lot of launches to get those missions done,” Free said. “They have a significant number of launches to go, and that, of course, gives me concern about the December of 2025 date” for Artemis 3.