NASA has chosen its first commercial partner for a proposed space station, called Lunar Gateway, to be built near the Moon. On Thursday, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said Maxar Technologies would build the first element of the Gateway – the power and drive element. As the name suggests, it will provide electricity to the Gateway and help to move it around.
"This time when we're going to the Moon, we're going to stay," Bridenstine said in making the announcement. It has characterized the Gateway, which will be located in a high elliptical orbit, has been balanced between the severity of the Earth and the Moon, as a "Command Module" that can be reused. Under NASA's current plans to land humans on the Moon by 2024, this is where the astronauts will launch from the Earth before climbing on the seafront to transport them down to the moon face .
Despite the fanfare on Thursday – Bridenstine provided an hourly overview of NASA's ambitious Moon Institute plans at the Florida Institute of Technology for a relatively simple contract award – the announcement represents the continuation of the Lunar Gateway scheme initiated under the Obama administration. Obama's space plan meant using the Gateway as a stepping stone to Mars, but now Trump's administration focuses on the moon's surface.
There was a somewhat warm debate in the aerospace community about whether Porth of this kind, adding to the energy delta-v needed to reach the moon's surface, helps or hinders efforts t NASA to build a sustainable deep space exploration program. Thursday's announcement left no doubt about welcoming the project by the White House, which meant that the Gateway concept had survived successfully a transfer from one president to the other.
Gateway could grow
The contract announced on Thursday is worth a maximum of $ 375 million. Surprisingly, Maxar said Blue Origin and Draper will join the team in designing, building and operating the spacecraft. The partnership of such a raise the possibility that the power and drive element, which will weigh about 5 tons, could be launched on New Glenn Blue Origin rocket.
During a teleconference with the media, Mike Gold from Maxar said the company would choose a commercial rocket for the launch of the power and drive element in the next 12 to 18 months. Most likely, New Glenn is the preferred launch vehicle, however Maxar defends itself in case a rocket is not ready to fly in 2022 when NASA wants this hardware in place. (Blue Origin is currently working towards the launch date of the powerful rocket in 2021, but large rocket projects often slide to the right).
The Portal is a unique piece of hardware for NASA as it will form the cornerstone of its first deep outlet. The station will use a solar electric drive to support its orbit and has the ability to move into other orbits around the Moon. Before people visited Porth in 2024, the space agency plans to add a small "habitat" module.
During the 2020s, NASA can expand the Gateway with other modules, including those provided by international partners. Officials said the electricity of solar panels would have the power element and drive more than enough to accommodate the expansion of the Gateway.