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