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Starship Lunar Lander Docking System Undergoes Qualification Testing

Artemis III

Starship Lunar Lander Docking System Undergoes Qualification Testing

A 10-day qualification testing of the SpaceX Starship Human Landing System’s docking system was recently performed at NASA’s Johnson Space Center to ensure the safety of astronauts who will fly to the moon during the Artemis III mission.

The Starship is designed to dock with the lunar Gateway space station, where the spacecraft will wait for the astronauts on board NASA’s Orion crew vehicle. Of the four crew members, only two astronauts will transfer to Starship for the Artemis program’s first crewed landing on the moon.

Over 200 docking scenarios with various approach angles and speeds were performed during the qualification testing, providing a data set to validate the computer models of the docking system, NASA said.

Artemis III is expected to launch no earlier than September 2026. Following touchdown on the lunar surface, the two crew members will explore the south pole of the moon for a week to gather samples and data before returning to the lunar Gateway. 

The mission was previously scheduled for liftoff in late 2025. NASA Administrator Bill Nelson previously said the delay will give Artemis teams more time to address development, operation and integration challenges.

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Category: Space

Tags: Artemis III Bill Nelson docking system Gateway Johnson Space Center NASA qualification testing space SpaceX Starship