When astronauts finally return to the Moon with NASA’s Artemis project, their journey to the launchpad will be fully electric. The space agency has been looking for a replacement for its early 1980s-era Astrovan, and this week it awarded a contract to electric vehicle startup Canoo.
NASA had a number of requirements for the Artemis transport vehicle when it issued the contract opportunity in 2021.
The agency said it would consider both commercial and non-commercial vehicles but that the crew transport vehicle must produce zero emissions and be designed and built according to current federal vehicle safety standards. The vehicle also needs to be able to carry a driver, four suited-up astronauts, and three extra personnel.
Astronauts don’t exactly travel light, so NASA also specified space for equipment bags, cooling units, and sufficiently wide doors to allow spacesuit-wearing passengers to get in and out easily. The vehicle will seat nine people.
At the time of the announcement, we thought that an electric conversion of the existing Airstream Astrovan might be the simplest solution. But NASA evidently felt that Canoo’s proposal was preferable—an eagle-eyed Reddit user spotted the $148,855 award on April 1.
Canoo was founded by former Faraday Future employees, and it originally planned to build a subscription-only van before a management change and then a merger with a special purpose acquisition company altered its plans. Bloomberg broke the story Monday and noted that Canoo has faced plenty of staff departures this year and is under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
NASA expects delivery of the Artemis crew transport vehicle in June 2023.