Spaceflight Insider

NASA seeking industry proposals for first element of Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway

In the 2020s, NASA and its international partners are hoping to construct a small space station in an orbit around the Moon. Called the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway, this outpost could allow astronauts to spend long periods of time in cislunar space, conducting science and testing hardware in preparation for eventual missions to the lunar surface or to Mars. Image Credit: Nathan Koga / SpaceFlight Insider

In the 2020s, NASA and its international partners are hoping to construct a small space station in an orbit around the Moon. Called the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway, this outpost could allow astronauts to spend long periods of time in cislunar space, conducting science and testing hardware in preparation for eventual missions to the lunar surface or to Mars. Image Credit: Nathan Koga / SpaceFlight Insider

NASA is asking for proposals from industry to partner with the space agency in developing the first piece of its proposed Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway through a draft broad agency announcement (BAA). The space station proposed to be a cislunar outpost for deep space exploration missions, both robotic and human.

NASA's Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway could play a central role in the agency's shifted focus from low-Earth orbit operations to cislunar space. Image credit: NASA

The Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway could play a central role in NASA’s shifted focus from low-Earth orbit operations to cislunar space. Image Credit: NASA

Formerly called the Deep Space Gateway, the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway (LOP-G)—part of NASA’s exploration campaign—is hoped to consist of several modules, including a power and propulsion element (PPE), habitation and utility modules, an airlock and robotic logistics spacecraft. Some of the International Space Station partner agencies have expressed interested in this new project, but like the ISS in its early days of planning, much is still in flux.

The current draft solicitation, which was issued June 21, 2018, is asking industry for proposals for a spaceflight demonstration of a PPE for LOP-G. NASA is asking for designs to include a high-power, 50-kilowatt solar electric propulsion spacecraft that will be used to both maintain the gateway’s position in a near-rectilinear halo orbit around the Moon, but to also to move it into different orbits as required for other mission applications.

“We believe partnering with U.S. industry for the power and propulsion element will stimulate advancements in commercial use of solar electric propulsion and also serve NASA exploration objectives,” Michele Gates, director of the power and propulsion element at NASA Headquarters in Washington, said in an agency news release. “Our goal here is to gain input from industry on the draft solicitation to enable release of the final later this summer.”

According to NASA, the PPE will enable high-rate, reliable communications between Earth and deep space, which could be important for spacewalking astronauts as well as astronauts working on the lunar surface.

Whoever is selected to partner with the U.S. space agency on this first element will need to design and build a power and propulsion spacecraft and have it function for a full year in space for testing. NASA said the BAA includes the option to acquire the spacecraft to use it for the first element of the gateway.

After hosting an industry day on July 10, 2018, NASA will issue a final BAA. Per the draft, the agency and its selected partner, or partners, are expected to begin the project upon the contract award, which is currently aiming for March 2019, and conclude some 24 months after a successful spaceflight demonstration.

In order to keep on track with the development of the gateway, NASA is targeting the launch of the PPE atop a commercial launch vehicle no later than September 2022.

 

 

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Lloyd Campbell’s first interest in space began when he was a very young boy in the 1960s with NASA’s Gemini and Apollo programs. That passion continued in the early 1970s with our continued exploration of our Moon, and was renewed by the Shuttle Program. Having attended the launch of Space Shuttle Discovery on its final two missions, STS-131, and STS-133, he began to do more social networking on space and that developed into writing more in-depth articles. Since then he’s attended the launch of the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover, the agency’s new crew-rated Orion spacecraft on Exploration Flight Test 1, and multiple other uncrewed launches. In addition to writing, Lloyd has also been doing more photography of launches and aviation. He enjoys all aspects of space exploration, both human, and robotic, but his primary passions lie with human exploration and the vehicles, rockets, and other technologies that allow humanity to explore space.

Reader Comments

Dennis Berube

What has happened to the idea of using the Bigelow expandable. Much more room for less money?????.

James Lunar Miner

The “high-power, 50-kilowatt solar electric propulsion” with a high Isp means the PPE, that can be resupplied with propellant in orbit, is a highly efficient reusable space tug for moving large payloads around in Cislunar Space.

Once we start mining the Moon, our high Isp electric propulsion space tugs should be capable of efficiently getting material from a low Lunar orbit to a geosynchronous orbit 22,236 miles, or 35,786 kilometers, above Earth to build massive 10,000 metric ton commercial Solar Power Satellites with 1-gigawatt of power.

“In space there is 10 times as much available solar energy as on Earth: There are no efficiency reductions due to the day-night cycle, seasonal variation, or weather conditions.”

From: “How Japan Plans to Build an Orbital Solar Farm”
By Susumu Sasaki 4/ 24/2014
At: https://spectrum.ieee.org/green-tech/solar/how-japan-plans-to-build-an-orbital-solar-farm

Note:

“Long also stated that the Long March 9 would be able to launch components for a space-based solar power system, a project which has been previously stated by senior Chinese aerospace and military figures to be under consideration.”

From: “China reveals details for super-heavy-lift Long March 9 and reusable Long March 8 rockets”
by Andrew Jones 7/5/2018
At: http://spacenews.com/china-reveals-details-for-super-heavy-lift-long-march-9-and-reusable-long-march-8-rockets/

James Lunar Miner

Concerning the Bigelow expandable modules, longevity testing is ongoing at the ISS. And:

“Early results from monitors inside the module have shown that galactic cosmic radiation levels are comparable to those in the rest of the space station. Further testing will try to characterize whether the inflatable structure is any more resilient to radiation than traditional metal modules.”

From: “Bigelow Expandable Activity Module” Wikipedia
At: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bigelow_Expandable_Activity_Module

Galactic cosmic radiation is one of the nasty and restless elephants hiding ‘under the rug’ for long duration deep space missions that will not be partially shielded by either our Moon or the Earth’s bulk and its magnetic field.

Currently, long duration deep space missions might need about 1 to 2+ meters of aluminum for thick and somewhat effective galactic cosmic radiation shielding which obviously is a high mass that would be super costly to accelerate with our currently available space propulsion technology.

Less shielding = shorter doable deep space missions.

See the blue shaded numbers on page 3 of:

“Interim Report for the Human Exploration of the Moon and
Mars: Space radiation protection and mitigation strategies for a long term duration lunar base (a NASA funded study)”
By Irene Schneider, Andrew Daga, Pablo de Leon, and
Gary Harris
American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics
http://human.space.edu/files/Barcelona-Paper.pdf

James Lunar Miner

Why are the very efficient and high 2,800 to 14,000+ Isp solar electric space propulsion systems important for the power and propulsion element, or PPE, of the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway and space tugs and much of what we expect to be doable in Cislunar Space to help mine and colonize the Moon?

Why are highly efficient nuclear powered electric space propulsion systems important for our future human and robot exploration and mining missions to Ceres, Mars, Enceladus, Titan, and Pluto?

“‘Burning chemical rockets is the equivalent of using a sailboat or a pedal boat to try and travel around the world,’ Hadfield said.”

And, “Chemical propellants aren’t as efficient as anyone would like. When designing a spacecraft, engineers have to sacrifice radiation protection, supplies, tools, and living space to ensure there’s enough fuel to make the trip.”

And, “Hadfield said he didn’t know what future technologies might look like, but he noted the recent advancements in ion propulsion and NASA’s resurgent interest in nuclear reactors.”

From: “Astronaut Chris Hadfield says we could have gone to Mars decades ago — here’s why we haven’t”
By Dave Mosher with contributions from Dana Varinsky 2018
At: http://www.businessinsider.com/astronaut-chris-hadfield-on-mars-mission-safety-2018-6

James Lunar Miner

In a risk minimized, sustainable, flexible, and cost effective manner we need to repeatedly get people, robots, and cargo on the Moon to build a permanent resource exploration and mining base as the near-term main goal of our upcoming international and commercial Lunar missions.

As stated above by Lloyd Campbell, the “high-power, 50-kilowatt solar electric propulsion spacecraft that will be used to both maintain the gateway’s position in a near-rectilinear halo orbit around the Moon, but to also to move it into different orbits as required for other mission applications.”

The cost effective high Isp solar electric propulsion system enables efficient mobility of the Gateway to new orbits and should contribute to the critical safety of future Lunar missions. An eventual stable low Lunar frozen polar orbit for the Gateway is within its solar electric propulsion system’s capability.

Note:

“Astronauts arriving in NASA’s in-development Orion spacecraft–similar to the old Apollo, but significantly bigger and more capable–could live onboard the Gateway for up to six weeks at a time as it orbited from a low of about 1,200 miles above the moon to a high of about 47,000 miles.”

And, “Gateway will fly in what’s known in space-speak as a near rectilinear halo orbit (NRHO). In plain English that means a high, egg-shaped orbit that circles the moon roughly north to south.”

From: “NASA Could Have People Living on the Moon in 8 Years. And That’s Just the Beginning”
By Jeffrey Kluger Time July 19, 2018
At: https://www.yahoo.com/news/nasa-could-people-living-moon-101948339.html

James Lunar Miner

Could future PPE based reusable space tugs with efficient high Isp 50-kilowatt, or larger and more powerful, solar electric propulsion systems be eventually used to cost effectively move some of the newer modules of the International Space Station in LEO to the Lunar Orbital Platform — Gateway (LOP-G) in its initial 1,200 miles low to 47,000 miles high egg-shaped polar Lunar orbit?

Note a related issue:

“MOSCOW (Sputnik) – Russia may decide to stop the construction of its segment of the International Space Station (ISS) and to use the ordered modules for the Lunar Orbital Platform — Gateway (LOP-G) project, a source in Russia’s rocket and space industry told Sputnik on Wednesday.”

And, “The source specified that the proposal concerned a node module with six ports for docking as well as a scientific and energy module that could significantly expand the space on the lunar station.”

From: “Russia May Use ISS Modules in Lunar Orbital Platform Project – Source” 7/18/2018
At: https://sputniknews.com/russia/201807181066454342-russia-space-iss-orbital-platform/

Could reusable high Isp solar electric propulsion based space tugs also be used to move the noted upcoming new Russian modules from LEO to the Gateway?

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