NASA’s plans for a crewed landing as part of the Artemis lunar exploration program may face significant delays, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The report highlights two major obstacles to achieving the goal of a late 2025 landing on the Artemis 3 mission: the slow progress in the development of the Human Landing System (HLS) lunar lander by SpaceX and the new lunar spacesuits by Axiom Space.
The GAO report specifically points out issues with SpaceX’s HLS development, noting an ambitious schedule, delayed progress, and significant technical work. These factors make it unrealistic to expect the lander to be ready by late 2025. In fact, SpaceX’s work on HLS is progressing slower than projected, with key events being delayed from 2023 to 2024, which compresses the remaining schedule.
The incomplete first integrated test flight of SpaceX’s Starship/Super Heavy in April is also mentioned in the report, along with key technical milestones that are still outstanding. These milestones include confirmation of the performance of the Raptor engine and demonstration of in-space cryogenic propellant transfer.
Axiom Space’s development of the lunar spacesuits is also flagged as a potential source of delays. According to the report, the company is still in the early stages of suit development and may need to redesign them to meet agency requirements for emergency life support capabilities. The report highlights supply chain challenges with long lead times for critical components, which could further delay the overall development of the spacesuits.
Based on the GAO report, it is unlikely that NASA’s first crewed landing as part of the Artemis lunar exploration program will occur before 2027. The report raises concerns about the slow progress in the development of the HLS lunar lander by SpaceX and the new lunar spacesuits by Axiom Space. These obstacles, including an ambitious schedule, delayed progress, and technical work, make it unrealistic to expect a landing by late 2025. Additional delays in SpaceX’s HLS development and Axiom’s spacesuit development could further push back the timeline.
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