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NASA's new Artemis 'astrovans' arrive for use by moon-bound crews

July 11, 2023

— Attention Artemis astronauts, your new rides to the launch pad have arrived.

Canoo Technologies on Tuesday (July 11) delivered three specially-designed, fully-electric crew transportation vehicles (CTV) to NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The new trio of "astrovans" will enter service as soon as late-2024, when the four astronauts assigned to NASA's Artemis II mission launch on the first crewed mission to fly around the moon in more than 50 years.

"I have no doubt everyone who sees these new vehicles will feel the same sense of pride I have for this next endeavor of crewed Artemis missions," said Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, NASA's Artemis launch director, in a statement.

Canoo based the new NASA crew transports on its LV, or Lifestyle Vehicle, which the company describes as having a "multi-purpose platform to maximize cabin space, utility and productivity on a compact footprint." The three vehicles can carry four astronauts in their Orion crew survival system pressure suits and support personnel (including a suit technician), as well as have the room for specialized equipment for the trip from Kennedy's Neil A. Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building to Complex 39B, where the crew's Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft will be poised for liftoff.

Externally, the new Artemis vehicles appear to be somewhat of a cross between the livery of the Apollo astronaut transfer van with the sleek outline of the shuttle-era Airstream — only with a more modern look accentuated by their street-view windows and panoramic glass roofs.

Many of the design aspects, from the interior and exterior markings to the color of the vehicles to the wheel wells, were chosen by a team that included Blackwell-Thompson and members of NASA's Astronaut Office at Johnson Space Center in Houston. Canoo, which bills itself as an advanced mobility company, was awarded the contract to manufacture the three vehicles in April 2022.

"The collaboration between Canoo and our NASA representatives focused on the crews' safety and comfort on the way to the pad," Blackwell-Thompson said.

For its part, Canoo chairman and CEO Tony Aquila said his company was proud to be a partner with NASA in "one of the world's greatest endeavors."

"The selection of our innovative technologies by NASA to take a diverse team of astronauts to the moon showcases a great commitment to sustainable transportation. We are inspired by NASA's pioneering and trailblazing spirit," said Aquila in a statement.

The Canoo CTVs join a new generation of astrovans that include SpaceX's fleet of Tesla Model X electric cars used to transport Dragon crews and a customized Airstream that will take astronauts flying on Boeing's Starliner to the launch pad.

The Apollo and space shuttle-era vans are now on display at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, in the Apollo/Saturn V Center and Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit, respectively.

Ahead of being used by Artemis II crew members Reid Wiseman, Victor Glover and Christina Koch of NASA and Jeremy Hansen of the Canadian Space Agency, the new CTV fleet will be used for astronaut training exercises at Kennedy Space Center. The three vehicles will then be used for future missions that will explore the moon's south pole or visit the Gateway in lunar orbit, beginning with Artemis III, which NASA, following the White House's direction, has said will land the first woman and next American on the moon.


One of Canoo Technologies' three CTVs or crew transport vehicles to be used by NASA to bring moon-bound Artemis astronauts to the launch pad is seen after being delivered to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Tuesday, July 11, 2023. (NASA/Kim Shiflett)

Jeremy Graeber, Artemis assistant launch director; Charlie Blackwell-Thompson, Artemis launch director; and Tony Aquila, chairman and CEO of Canoo Technologies pose with one of the new Artemis crew transport vehicles at on launch pad 39B at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (NASA/Kim Shiflett)

With the Vehicle Assembly Building in the background, the three specially designed, fully electric crew transportation vehicles for NASA's moon-bound Artemis missions arrived at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Tuesday, July 11, 2023. (NASA/Isaac Watson)

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