NASA needs Canoo to make a working EV astronaut carrier by 2023

A photo of the Canoo lifestyle EV.

science fiction?
Photo: Canou

If you ask me what astronauts drive, I’ll tell you it’s a Corvette because it’s the car that every Apollo astronaut had. But while they may have gone out to get groceries in a ’60s Vette, that’s not what they were dispatched to the launch pad in. In the Apollo era, that job was done by a decorated Clark-Cortez motorhome. But now NASA has appointed electric vehicle maker Canoo to imagine an astronaut transporter for the future.

And it’s a gesture that makes Nasa one of the few organizations that actually believe Canoo will soon be able to produce electric vehicles.

For context, Canoo hasn’t had the easiest ride in its quest to roll out a fleet of all-electric vehicles.

The company burst onto the EV startup scene in 2017 with the aim of creating a cute egg-shaped electric minivan and pickup truck. Both would be based on the same skateboard platformand both looked like they could be quite excellent.

But the problems quickly started to flow. First, there was the merger with Hyundai which was quickly cancelled. Then a few days after announcing the prices for his cars Canoo has been investigated by the SEC after its merger with Hennessy Capital Acquisition Corp.

A rendering of the Canoo pickup truck in a snowy forest.

What a happy little van it could be one day.
Photo: Canou

Following, came the departure of its co-founder, Ulrich Kranzwho left to join Apple, and the firm finally admitted that it might not have a car in production by 2022 when it announced that his factory will not be built until the following year.

So imagine our surprise when we learned that NASA had awarded the struggling startup a contract to start. make transport vehicles for astronauts!

Luckily, for Canoo, NASA isn’t demanding a working electric vehicle right away, but it does have a deadline for delivery of the startup. It’s because he needs the new astronaut transport truck for the launch of its manned Artemis missions.

According to The latest NASA calendar, this gives the firm more than a year to design its new astronaut carrier. Details of the statement of work submitted by NASA show that the carrier is to be delivered by June 2023.

And that gives Canoo 15 months to design a truck that meets NASA’s needs. But what are the requirements for a next-generation crew carrier?

A photo of space shuttle astronauts walking past their transport vehicle.

Previous astronaut carriers included a converted Airstream.
Photo: Nasa (Getty Images)

Well, NASA says it must have room for eight people, which will include four fully equipped-out astronauts, a driver, a technician, a director of flight operations and a security officer. The truck also needs enough storage space to accommodate all of the astronauts’ gear and personal effects, and a door that measures at least 24 inches to comfortably accommodate the crew and all its elements.

NASA also wants the carrier to have comforts like air conditioning and power connectors at every seat.

So far, so good. It doesn’t look like much a lot to ask of a 21st century electric vehicle. But like Canoo has yet to deploy a functional, customer-ready vehicleNASA may have concerns about its range and performance.

Fortunately, the space agency does not have particularly high requirements in this regard.

Indeed, the truck will only be used to transport astronauts from the suiting facility to the launch pad. He’ll have to make that trip at least twice 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 demands that it be able to operate for at least eight hours a day. As Canoo initially claimed its production EVs would manage a range of 250 miles, that shouldn’t be of concern to the company.

A photo of the Canoo concept van.

Room for eight and plenty of storage space? Maybe the Canoo pickup could do the trick.
Photo: Canou

But obviously, making a real EV is much more difficult than developing renders and a prototype.

And speaking of renders, Canoo now has 30 days to develop its design and pitch it to NASA executives. He will then have an additional 30 days to agree on an approved final design and begin manufacturing.

The finished electric astronaut transporter is then expected to be delivered to NASA “no later than June 2023” ready for the Launch of Artemis. Time to work on that factory then, Canoo.