SpaceX Falcon Heavy to Launch Mission to the Moon in 2023
Believe it or not, it’s been two years since Elon Musk launched his very own midnight cherry Tesla Roadster in space. He did so as a means to validate SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket but managed to give birth to the most famous dummy payload there ever was.
Since that time, the Falcon Heavy flew some more, but none of the subsequent launches were as glamorous as the one in 2018. But that might change after an announcement made by Astrobotic this week.
The space company is planning to launch the so-called Griffin lunar lander to the Moon in late 2023. NASA chose the lander as a means to deliver a rover called VIPER, and will send it on its merry way using a Falcon Heavy rocket, as Astrobotic said.
“Getting to the Moon isn’t just about building a spacecraft, but having a complete mission solution. SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy completes our Griffin Mission 1 (GM1) solution by providing a proven launch vehicle to carry us on our trajectory to the Moon. SpaceX has the team, vehicle, and facilities to make this happen,” said in a statement Daniel Gillies, GM1 Director for Astrobotic.
The rocket will help Griffin beat Earth’s gravity, then separate, and, hopefully, its boosters will come back and land as they did before. Griffin will continue its journey and land on the Moon to deposit the VIPER rover there.
VIPER stands for Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover and was designed by NASA to find out the location and concentration of ice water on the surface of Earth’s satellite at the South Pole. If successful, that would mean future missions to the Moon, and the planned base there might make use of the substance, greatly expanding what can be done at such a remote outpost.
The Griffin mission will launch from the Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.