NASA Will Seek Partnership with US Industry to Develop First Gateway Element

Hall thruster test (Credit; NASA)

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — As part of the agency’s Exploration Campaign, NASA’s Gateway will become the orbital outpost for robotic and human exploration operations in deep space. Built with commercial and international partners, the Gateway will support exploration on and near the Moon, and beyond, including Mars.

NASA released a draft solicitation through a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) June 21, 2018, for proposals for partnership for the first element of the Gateway. NASA is seeking a high-power, 50-kW solar electric propulsion (SEP) spacecraft to maintain the Gateway’s position as well as move it between lunar orbits as needed. It will also provide power to the rest of the Gateway, controls and communications. In addition to the draft BAA, NASA will host an industry day July 10 at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland prior to issuing the final BAA. Industry day details are available in the draft BAA.

Through this upcoming solicitation, industry will be asked to participate in a public/private partnership, which includes a flight demonstration of the power and propulsion spacecraft. Following this test lasting up to one-year in space after launch, NASA will have the option to acquire the spacecraft for use as the first element of the Gateway in lunar orbit.

“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,” said Michele Gates, director, Power and Propulsion Element at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Our goal here is to gain input from industry on the draft solicitation to enable release of the final later this summer.”

The power and propulsion element is also expected to enable high-rate, reliable communications between Earth and deep space, which will be important during deep space spacewalks, human exploration of the lunar surface, and more.

To meet current Gateway development planning, NASA is targeting launch of the power and propulsion element on a partner-provided commercial rocket in 2022.

The draft BAA follows a synopsis issued earlier this year for the power and propulsion element as well as studies completed in March by five U.S. companies to provide data on current commercial SEP capabilities and plans. In addition to the draft BAA, NASA will host an industry day next month prior to issuing the final BAA.

NASA is returning to the Moon with commercial and international partners as part of an overall agency Exploration Campaign in support of Space Policy Directive 1. The draft BAA is the first call from NASA to U.S. industry to acquire an element for the Gateway. Previous efforts will inform development of the Gateway. Most recently, NASA issued a Request for Information to better understand how U.S. industry would use or enhance the Gateway to support a growing space economy. The agency also asked industry for information regarding technical use of the Gateway to enable or evolve initial capabilities for human exploration, science and commercial activities in deep space. Earlier this year, NASA also hosted a workshop to kick-off discussions about how the Gateway could create scientific value for both robotic and human exploration in deep space.

Finally, ongoing work through the agency’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships, or NextSTEP, which began in 2016, will support future habitation capabilities for the Gateway. In addition to building habitation prototypes, five companies under NextSTEP contracts are also developing full Gateway concepts.

“Since the directive was issued in December to return to the Moon, the agency has been moving full-steam ahead with plans for robotic and human lunar exploration,” said Jason Crusan, director, Advanced Exploration Systems, at NASA Headquarters. “It’s an exciting time to be at NASA, and we look forward to partnering with U.S. industry and international partners as we lead the return to the Moon, and go beyond.”

Last Updated: June 21, 2018

  • Andrew_M_Swallow

    So LOP-G has a station keeping module (PPE) in development and a habitation module being ground prototyped. That is the human side taken care of. Now the primary purpose of the LOP-G needs deciding.

    I would like LOP-G to be used to support the construction and supply of the Moon base. Treating a Moon base as a space station on the ground then similar masses to the ISS modules can be expected. Zaraya module masses 19,323 kg and Unity module masses 11,612 kg. From lunar orbit a payload would also need a lander and propellant.

  • P.K. Sink
  • gunsandrockets

    “To meet current Gateway development planning, NASA is targeting launch of the power and propulsion element on a partner-provided commercial rocket in 2022.”

    So SLS not wanted for delivery of the PPE to lunar orbit. Makes sense. The PPE probably will mass no more than 6t.

  • Paul451

    The tiny scale of LOP-G and lack of facilities shows that NASA has no intention of building a base on the moon. They aren’t even floating RFI’s for lander concepts.

  • Andrew_M_Swallow

    Paul451 you may be out of date on lander concepts. Small landers are being developed under the Lunar CATALYST initiative with test landings due next year. Milestone 20 of the NASA/Masten Space agreement is the XEUS System Concept Design Review 1. XEUS is a much larger lander powered by a ULA Centaur.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lunar_CATALYST

    Production lunar landings are due under the Commercial Lunar Payload Services program. The draft solicitation was issued in April and the real one is due to be issued within a month.
    https://www.nasa.gov/feature/nasa-expands-plans-for-moon-exploration-more-missions-more-science

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commercial_Lunar_Payload_Services

  • Paul451

    CATALYST landers can’t land 15-20t modules for a base. Other than XEUS, it would be a stretch to base a man-rated lander on any of the proposals. And XEUS can’t be expanded, being strictly based on a Centaur/ACES stage..

    Which was my point. NASA is not planning for a base.

    The same thing happened under Constellation, but at least then they pretended for awhile.

  • Andrew_M_Swallow

    A base can be made from 5-10 tonne modules. Anything bigger than a XEUS can land is 15-20 years away. Plenty of time to build that after men have returned to the Moon.

  • Paul451

    “Treating a Moon base as a space station on the ground then similar masses to the ISS modules can be expected. Zaraya module masses 19,323 kg and Unity module masses 11,612 kg.”

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    “Anything bigger than a XEUS can land is 15-20 years away.”
    15-20 years based on what information?. And of course, XEUS does not exist yet – probably a good 15-20 years away.

  • Andrew_M_Swallow

    True. A Bigelow B330 weights at least 20 tonnes. So bigger landers are definitely needed.

    However the proposed modules for the LOP-G all mass under 10 tonnes. (Payload limit of the SLS?). This suggests a Moon base can be built in 5-10 tonne chunks but would be rather cramped and need about 3 times as many modules. More modules require the mass overhead of additional birthing and docking ports to connect them together.

  • Andrew_M_Swallow

    Development of the Orion spacecraft officially started in 2011 and is due to fly in 2023 so 13 years for a major NASA project can be expected. I suspect that development of a large lander will be a major project with full political overhead. NASA is busy for the next few years so it will be several years before it can start a major high profile project.

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    But in actuality, such a lander is not 15+ years away, because it is not planned and is not likely to happen as a NASA development project. And, besides that …BFR !!!!!

  • redneck

    Or a group that is not NASA funded might notice the methods that made an expendable F9 into a VTVL and realize that waiting on a huge Lunar lander is not necessary. Any stage with the propulsive capability of reaching the Lunar surface can be modified to soft land even with a T/W much greater than one. Software and legs to existing equipment.

    If a modified FH delivered a B330 to the surface, would it embarrass NASA enough to pretend it wasn’t there when they got a 5 tonner to the same destination?

  • Andrew_M_Swallow

    Only if the firm got there first. More than 2 years later it is a next generation lander.

  • Zed_WEASEL

    Think 2022 is when the folks from Hawthorne will be starting their Mars exploration program according to their CTO. So even with a 2 year delay with their schedule, they should have done test trips to the surface of the Moon by 2022. So that make the LOP-G pointless when you can land 50+ tonnes on the Moon and have a mobile reusable Lunar orbital station as well.

    Of course presuming the folks from Hawthorne are somewhat on schedule.

  • Zed_WEASEL

    Think you meant the BFS.

  • gunsandrockets

    Have you ever heard of ‘Elon time’? President and Chief Operating Officer of SpaceX, Gwynne Shotwell, essentially admitted that BFR won’t be operational until 2028.

    https://www.ted.com/talks/gwynne_shotwell_spacex_s_plan_to_fly_you_across_the_globe_in_30_minutes/transcript

    That length of delay is entirely consistent with the delay already seen with Falcon Heavy. Announced 2011, supposed to fly in 2013, actually flies in 2018.

  • Zed_WEASEL

    Yes. What Shotwell said about the BFR was that point to to point service and trips to Mars within a decade in the 2020s, nothing about a specify date.

    SpaceX is not same company as the company that initiated the Falcon Heavy. It is much bigger and more capable than the SpaceX of 2011. Part of the delay in the introduction of the Falcon Heavy was the RUD of the CRS-7 in flight and the Amos-6 on the pad.

    We will have a better idea of the BFR service introduction date after the BFS start doing hopping tests. When ever that is.

  • gunsandrockets

    Yes, SpaceX is bigger now than it was back then. And the BFR project is a whole lot bigger too than Falcon Heavy was.

    And then there is also the matter of propellant production on Mars. Because without that ISRU propellant, any BFR journey to the Martian surface is a one-way trip.