Last week we notified everyone that NASA and Canoo had agreed upon July 11th as the delivery date of the Artemis II Crew Transport Vehicles(CTVs). We are pleased (and relieved) to say that it did indeed happen. NASA teased a few sneak peeks via Twitter before releasing a stunning photograph of all three on the launch pad(seen above) along with a press release and yesterday Canoo followed up with a press release of their own.
We are thrilled to be a part of the Artemis missions and to deliver NASA`s first zero-emission built for mission crew transportation vehicles,” says Tony Aquila, Chairman and CEO, Canoo. “It`s a very proud day for Canoo and all of our partners who worked so hard to ensure we perform our part to transport the astronauts for the first nine miles of every launch.”
The CTVs are engineered to carry fully suited astronauts, flight support crew, and equipment to the launch pad. The vehicles have an exclusive interior and exterior design that will provide astronaut and crew comfort and safety while on the nine-mile journey to the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center. Canoo said it expects to reveal images of the exterior and interior of the CTV later this year.
The Artemis II is the first crewed mission that is part of NASA's plan to establish a long-term presence at the Moon for science and exploration. The 10-day flight will test NASA's foundational human deep space exploration capabilities, the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft, for the first time with astronauts.
Aquila says the company looks forward to supporting NASA in being the transport vehicle for the Artemis Lunar Missions.
When we reviewed the Crew Transport Vehicle contract award last year, we noted NASA required specific criteria for the vehicle(s), such as access points wide enough to allow ease of ingress and egress for the astronauts in their flight suits and 12VDC power connectors available for each astronauts. They also wanted them to be "zero-emissions" and to "visually embody Artemis".
These are important items to take note of when considering why Canoo was awarded the contract in the first place. The amount of misinformed and ignorant takes that can be seen on Twitter regarding the CTV reveal is so astonishing it becomes funny.
The main complaint seems to be, in their mind, the obvious overspend that NASA must have had for purchasing these vehicles lamenting they didn't just buy a Tesla Model X(MSRP as of today is around $100,000), or why they had to be electric vehicles at all. One person even seriously suggested NASA should use e-bikes or import vans from China.
Lets set the record straight: NASA purchased these three vans for a total of $147,855 or slightly less than $50,000 per vehicle. A 2023 Ford ICE Transit Passenger van starts at $50,275, if you wanted an electric Transit, the barebones cargo version without any seating starts at $49,995 and this is before making any modifications to meet the specifications and requirements of NASA for their use case as Crew Transport Vehicles.
The award details indicate that there were (6) competing bids going for the contract, it's not known if Tesla was one of those bidders or not but they had their chance to compete if they had interest in doing so.
Why did they need to be zero-emissions? This goes along with the requirement that the vehicles need to embody the Artemis mission. NASA is a powerhouse of inspiration that encourages future generations to explore, learn, and build a better future. While the rocket propulsion system currently relies on technologies that emit many pollutants, it's essential to prioritize the development of zero-emission vehicles alongside it.
Which brings us to another interesting point to consider, is NASA looking to have a longer lasting relationship with Canoo or is this a one-off purchase? Read the following statement from Canoo's CEO, Tony Aquila, from their last conference call:
"It is essential to understand the significance of our partnership with NASA. We are closely collaborating with NASA's team of scientists and engineers to optimize vehicle performance and functionality, particularly regarding interior behaviors, comfort, safety, and security."
What is a possible outcome to collaborating with the NASA engineers on the CTV project? By working closely together, NASA gains firsthand experience of the capabilities offered by the Multi-Purpose Platform. This experience empowers them to incorporate specific specifications and efficiency requirements into their future Request for Proposals (RFPs) for various vehicles, such as ground service maintenance or even the next lunar rover.
While Canoo would still need to compete through a bidding process, this collaboration provides a distinct advantage if the engineers refer to Canoo's technological capabilities as the foundation for their design. As a result, Canoo would have an increased likelihood of securing the contract and gaining a competitive edge in the industry.
It might also be worth nothing in NASA's FY 2024 Budget Request, they have the $300M for "Small Business Innovation Research and Technology Transfer to leverage the Nation’s innovative small business community to conduct research and development in support of NASA"
We've reached out to NASA looking for details on what their existing ground fleet consist of and if they have any actionable plans ready to replace them with electric or other zero-emission vehicles. We will edit and update this post should we hear back.
We offer our most sincere congratulations to everyone at Canoo and NASA who had a hand in the development and design of these technological beauties. We can't wait to get more details and visuals on the interiors when NASA feels its ready to share.
Authors disclosures: I am long Canoo - I own common shares, warrants and call options.