NASA signed a contract this month with the company that will design its Gateway housing module. The lunar orbiting outpost is intended to be used in NASA’s Artemis program. The Orbital Science Corporation, a subsidiary of Northrop Grumman Space, was awarded a $187 million contract to work on the project.
The Gateway is an advanced lunar outpost that will be essential to the Artemis program in the future. The program aims to send the first woman and the next man to the Moon by 2024. NASA’s agreement with Orbital Science Corporation foresees that the Gateway’s preliminary design will be presented and revised by the end of this year.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine highlights that this deal is a “significant milestone” for the agency’s plans on lunar missions with human exploration, as the Gateway should accommodate the crew and hold necessary supplies for astronauts to explore space.
The Gateway is a key component of NASA’s long-term Artemis architecture and the HALO capability furthers our plans for human exploration at the Moon in preparation for future human missions to Mars.
The design stage is crucial to create a module following all NASA safety standards. The contract-winning company will also be able to provide some of the hardware used by Gateway in the next phase of development.
A second contract that will define how the company will integrate the habitation and logistics outpost (HALO) with another Gateway module called the power and propulsion element (PPE) is expected to be signed by the end of the year. This crucial step is expected to be complete by the end of 2023.
Parts of the PPE will be built by Maxar Technologies, which includes a 60-kilowatt solar electric propulsion system. This should allow the Gateway crew to reach any part of the Moon’s surface from the Gateway.
If everything succeeds in the Artemis program, NASA will use the same technology and knowledge acquired to send astronauts to Mars for the first time as soon as the next decade.
Charged with returning to the Moon in the next four years, NASA’s Artemis program will reveal new knowledge about the Moon, Earth, and our origins in the solar system. The Gateway is a vital part of NASA’s deep space exploration plans, along with the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, Orion spacecraft, and the human landing system that will carry astronauts to the surface of the Moon in preparation for NASA to sending humans on a historic first journey to Mars.
The full report about the Gateway module contract and the Artemis program can be found on NASA’s official website.