If you ask me what astronauts drive, I’ll tell you it’s a Corvette because it is. the car that every Apollo spaceman had. But even though they might have gone out to buy groceries in a 60s ‘Vette’, that was not what they were sent to the launch pad in. On the Apollo days, this job was left to a fancy Clark-Cortez motorhome. But now NASA has named EV producer Canoo to dream up an astronaut transporter for the future.
And it’s a move that does NASA one of the few organizations out there that actually believes that Canoo will be able to produce electric vehicles anytime soon.
For context, Canoo has not had the easiest ride in its quest to roll out a fleet of fully electric vehicles.
The company burst onto the EV launch scene in 2017 with the goal of creating a cute, egg-shaped electric minivan and pickup truck. Both would be based on the same skateboard platformand both seemed to be able to be quite excellent.
But the problems quickly began to spill over. First there was relationship with Hyundai it was soon canceled. So just days after announcing prices for their cars, Canoo was investigated by the SEC after it merged with Hennessy Capital Acquisition Corp.
Next, came the departure of its co-founder, Ulrich Kranzwho left to join Apple, and the company finally admitted that it might not have a car in production by 2022, when it announced that its factory would not be built until the following year.
So imagine our surprise when we heard that NASA had awarded the troubled startup a contract to begin manufacture of transport vehicles for astronauts!
Fortunately, for Canoo, NASA does not require a functional EV right away, but it does have a startup deadline to deliver. That’s because it needs the new astronaut transport truck for the launch of its manned Artemis missions.
According to NASA’s latest schedule, this gives the company more than a year to come up with its new astronaut transporter. Details in the work declaration submitted by NASA show that the carrier must be delivered by June 2023.
And it gives Canoo 15 months to come up with a truck that meet NASA’s needs. But what are the requirements for a next generation of crew carriers?
Well, NASA says it should have room for eight, which will include four fully equipped-oout astronauts, a driver, technician, flight operations director and a security agent. The truck also needs enough storage to fit all the astronauts’ equipment and personal belongings, and a door measuring at least 24 inches to comfortably accommodate the crew and all their belongings.
NASA also wants the carrier to have creature comfort like air conditioning and power plugs at each seat.
So far so good. It does not sound like either much to demand of a 21st century EV. But as Canoo has not yet rolled out a working, customer-ready carNASA may have some concerns about its range and performance.
Fortunately, the space agency does not have particularly high standards in this regard.
This is because the truck will only be used to transport astronauts from the dressing facility to the launch pad. It will have to take this trip at least twice at each launch, once in the “dress rehearsal” and once for the real thing.
Because of this, NASA only needs the new Canoo EV to have a range of 50 miles and asks that it be able to run for at least eight hours a day. Since Canoo originally claimed that their electric cars in production would reach 250 miles range, this should not be a problem for the company.
But of course, it’s much harder to make a real EV than to develop renderings and a prototype.
Speaking of renderings, Canoo now has 30 days to develop its design and present it to NASA executives. It will then have an additional 30 days to agree on a final approved design and begin manufacturing.
The finished electric astronaut transporter must then be delivered to NASA “by June 2023” ready for Artemis launches. Then it’s time to work on that factory, Canoo.