NASA has selected SpaceX to spearhead the development of an orbital refueling technology that will be used in future space missions including expeditions to the Moon and Mars. SpaceX’s new project is among the 19 new industry partnerships that NASA unveiled recently.

According to NASA’s latest press release, the space agency has expanded its operations by partnering with various private companies in preparation for its Artemis program, which will be kicked off by a new Moon mission by 2024.

One of the partners selected by NASA is SpaceX, which has been a frequent collaborator of the space agency in numerous operations and missions. As part of the Artemis program, SpaceX will handle the development of a refueling technology that will be deployed in orbit. Based on NASA’s description, the project could involve setting up an orbiting outpost that is capable of refueling spaceships during missions.

NASA noted that SpaceX will be working closely with the space agency’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland as well as the Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama for the project.

Aside from the orbital refueling technology, NASA tasked SpaceX with another project that involves improving the landing technology of the former’s rockets. For the project, SpaceX’s and NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida will work on developing new technology that will allow them to land rockets vertically on the surface of the Moon.

Aside from SpaceX, NASA also selected various companies from the private sector as its partners for the different aspects of the Artemis program. One of these is Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, which will improve NASA’s navigation and guidance systems for lunar landings.

Defense contractor Lockheed Martin was also brought in by NASA to develop spacecraft designs that will make them more suitable for high-temperature environments.

According to Jim Reuter, the associate administrator of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, the industry partnerships forged by the space agency will help in advancing the technological capabilities of the private companies.

“NASA’s proven experience and unique facilities are helping commercial companies mature their technologies at a competitive pace,” Reuter said in a statement. “We’ve identified technological areas NASA needs for future missions, and these public-private partnerships will accelerate their development so we can implement them faster.”

SpaceX Crew Dragon Docking to ISS This artist illustration shows the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft docking to the International Space Station. SpaceX is one of two American companies working with NASA to design, build, test and operate safe, reliable and cost-effective human transportation systems, restoring the nation’s human launch capability to and from the station. Photo: SpaceX/ Public Domain