Skip to main content

NASA's Artemis astronauts will ride to launchpad in sleek new electric vans

Artist's impression of the new crew transportation vehicle expected to be used for Artemis 2.
Artist's impression of the new crew transportation vehicle expected to be used for Artemis 2. (Image credit: Canoo)

Future moon crews will have an electric ride to the launchpad.

Starting with Artemis 2, the mission NASA hopes to send around the moon in 2024, crews will take their last ride on Earth before launch using electric crew transportation vehicles provided by Canoo Technologies Inc.

Canoo will supply a fleet of three to ferry the spacesuited astronauts, their support team and any needed equipment 9 miles (14.5 kilometers) from the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building to Launch Pad 39B at NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida.

"The new transports will be based on the company's all-electric LV [launch vehicle] models, customized for NASA's unique needs," the agency stated (opens in new tab) on April 13.

"For example, the vehicles are required to seat eight, including four fully suited crew members," the agency continued. "The futuristic transports with pod-shaped exteriors will be an environmentally friendly solution, using zero-emissions technology for the next generation of explorers."

Related: NASA's Artemis 1 moon mission explained in photos

NASA's Artemis 1 Space Launch System moon rocket stands atop Launch Pad 39B at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, during a fueling test on April 4, 2022.

NASA's Artemis 1 Space Launch System moon rocket stands atop Launch Pad 39B at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, during a fueling test on April 4, 2022. (Image credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

Similarly to the space shuttle era, NASA plans to use the new vehicles to carry the crews to the launchpad, but the fleet will also support prelaunch operations, training and launch countdown rehearsal tests, the agency said. The vehicles should be delivered no later than June 2023, NASA added.

The agency released the news the same week it was attempting to complete a crucial "wet dress rehearsal" for Artemis 1, an uncrewed predecessor to demonstrate an orbital mission around the moon. The rehearsal was halted Thursday (April 14) after a series of glitches, and NASA later decided to roll the Artemis 1 stack off the pad to address the issues. It's unclear when the wet dress will resume.

The modified Airstream version of Astrovan for the space shuttle program transports the STS-135 astronauts to the pad at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, to participate in a launch countdown simulation exercise in 2011.

The modified Airstream version of Astrovan for the space shuttle program transports the STS-135 astronauts to the pad at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, to participate in a launch countdown simulation exercise in 2011.  (Image credit: NASA/Jim Grossmann)

The new electric vehicle will replace the shuttle-era "Astrovan" that transported NASA crews (opens in new tab) to the launchpad for launch dress rehearsal, on launch day and after landing. The modified Airstream transport van was used from shuttle missions STS-9 (opens in new tab) through STS-135, between November 1983 and July 2011. The van is now on display (opens in new tab) at the KSC visitor center.

But the new electric vehicles are not the only way NASA astronauts can get to the launchpad these days. SpaceX uses a Tesla Model X to get crews to KSC's Launch Pad 39A for Crew Dragon missions, and Boeing plans to use a customized Airstream Atlas Touring Coach, dubbed Astrovan II, when it starts crewed missions using its Starliner capsule.

Other vehicles were used for early space missions. The Mercury 7 astronauts traveled in a modified trailer pulled by a REO Motor Co. tractor, Gemini astronauts used a different transfer van, and Apollo, Apollo-Soyuz and early shuttle crews had their own "Astrovan," a converted Clark Cortez motor home.

Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) and on Facebook (opens in new tab).

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at: community@space.com.

Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell, Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022. She was contributing writer for Space.com (opens in new tab) for 10 years before that, since 2012. As a proud Trekkie and Canadian, she also tackles topics like diversity, science fiction, astronomy and gaming to help others explore the universe. Elizabeth's on-site reporting includes two human spaceflight launches from Kazakhstan, three space shuttle missions in Florida, and embedded reporting from a simulated Mars mission in Utah. She holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, and a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science since 2015. Her latest book, Leadership Moments from NASA, is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday.