, Florida Today
Published 11:09 a.m. ET Oct. 12, 2019 | Updated 12:10 p.m. ET Oct. 12, 2019

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If SpaceX wants its massive next-generation spacecraft to reach the moon and planets beyond, CEO Elon Musk says it’ll need to be refueled in orbit around Earth – and NASA wants to know more.

Now in the prototype and early test flight phase, Starship is a stainless steel crewed craft that will launch atop a Super Heavy booster. But because of its size and potentially heavy payloads – like dozens or hundreds of astronauts – in the future, it will need to be refueled in orbit around Earth before it begins longer voyages.

SpaceX, Musk said, is developing the technologies necessary to dock two Starships together in orbit – one without much in the way of crew or payloads – and transfer fuel to the one venturing beyond low-Earth orbit.

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To further the technology, NASA recently awarded SpaceX a $3 million contract to study the concepts, Administrator Jim Bridenstine said during a joint press conference with Musk on Friday.

“Starship is a really big vehicle,” Bridenstine told FLORIDA TODAY on Thursday. “Being able to refuel it will be necessary to become a vehicle that can get to the moon.”

“SpaceX can use it for their reasons and we can use it for our reasons,” he said.

The technology to dock spacecraft and trans

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