Science

Nasa awards key contract for Moon-orbiting Gateway spacecraft

Nasa awards key contract for Moon-orbiting Gateway spacecraft”

One of the most important Gateway modules is HALO, which is described as having the volume of a small studio apartment and includes a life support system that works in tandem with that of a docked Orion spacecraft. The contract also allows Northrop Grumman to issue subcontracts for hardware with long lead times. HALO will feature three docking ports for visiting spacecraft, including the Orion spacecraft and other lunar support vehicles. The Artemis 3 Orion spacecraft would dock to the Gateway and astronauts would then board the lander for the trip to the lunar surface and back.

He added that Gateway would be used for later missions as NASA seeks to create a more sustainable infrastructure for human lunar exploration, one that will include adding modules from global partners to the Gateway.

Previously, the space station already awarded Maxar, a space tech company with $375 million worth of contract to develop similar products in 2019.

Northrop's module is based on its Cygnus spacecraft used to transport cargo to the International Space Station. If everything goes well, the company will sign a second contract to fabricate and assemble the actual HALO module that's scheduled to blast off to space in 2023.

"This contract award is another significant milestone in our plan to build robust and sustainable lunar operations", highlighted Nasa Administrator Jim Bridenstine.

NASA now plans to procure a launch for the combined PPE and HALO in November, with that launch expected to take place in November 2023. It is to be deployed in lunar orbit as the first crew module of the NASA Gateway, a space station orbiting the moon providing vital support for long-term human exploration of the lunar surface and deep space.

The agency says launching these two elements of the Gateway - HALO and PPE - at the same time reduces both cost and technical risks while enhancing the likelihood of mission success by eliminating the need to dock two separate elements in the orbit where the Gateway will operate. NASA originally envisioned using the Gateway to aggregate elements of a lunar lander.

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The HALO design is derived from Northrop Grumman's highly successful Cygnus spacecraft, a human-capable vehicle that delivers supplies, spare equipment and scientific experiments to the International Space Station with 13 successful missions to date. "By launching the elements together, we're able to significantly reduce Gateway's risk profile and increase cost-effectiveness".

There will also be 'payloads from our research communities, ' said Dan Hartman, Gateway program manager at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Hartman added, "The new plan to integrate the two elements of Gateway demonstrates the agency's capabilities and our partners' ability to be flexible and reassess plans as needed".

They took Cygnus and added command and control capabilities, including environmental control and life support systems.

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, according to the agency.

NASA is continuing with its plans to build the Gateway space station that will orbit around the moon, as part of its efforts to create a sustainable, long-term lunar presence.

These first two elements of the Gateway - HALO and PPE - will launch together in 2023.



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