NASA Engineer Reveals SpaceX Starship’s Next Major Milestone – Cryogenic Transfer Test

Boca Chica, Texas – Following the successful test flight of SpaceX’s Starship launch system, NASA engineer Catherine Koerner expressed enthusiasm for the potential of the rocket and its Super Heavy booster. Koerner, who oversees development for NASA’s Artemis missions, highlighted the significance of the test as a step towards advancing space exploration.

The recent test flight has raised questions about the readiness of various hardware components for the planned Artemis III mission in 2026. Concerns primarily revolve around SpaceX’s Starship as a Human Landing System. While progress is being made, there remains substantial work to be done to ensure a safe lunar landing and return.

To address potential delays, NASA and SpaceX are considering modifications to the Artemis III mission, potentially involving a rendezvous in low-Earth orbit instead of a lunar landing. This strategic approach aims to mitigate risks and provide a transitional phase between missions.

Koerner’s analogy of having a spare tire underscores NASA’s commitment to comprehensive planning and contingency measures for mission success. The agency continuously evaluates backup plans in the event of unforeseen circumstances affecting critical mission components. Emphasizing the importance of preparedness, Koerner highlighted the need for alternative options should key elements like the Orion spacecraft or the Human Landing System face delays.

Looking ahead, SpaceX’s next milestone involves a cryogenic transfer test scheduled for early next year. This crucial step will assess the viability of Starship’s progress towards meeting NASA’s requirements for a 2026 lunar landing. The test, involving complex technology and logistical coordination, will be a pivotal moment in determining the project’s timeline.

Completing the propellant transfer test by the first quarter of 2025 could pave the way for a crewed lunar landing in 2026, according to NASA’s evaluation criteria. The test’s success will hinge on a series of intricate maneuvers and technological capabilities, signaling a crucial phase in SpaceX’s development timeline for the ambitious Artemis missions.