As reflected in NASA's Exploration Campaign, the next step in human spaceflight is the establishment of U.S. preeminence in cislunar space through the operations and the deployment of a U.S.-led Gateway. Together with the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion, the Gateway is central to advancing and sustaining human space exploration goals, and is the unifying single stepping off point in our architecture for human cislunar operations, lunar surface access and missions to Mars. The Gateway is necessary to achieving the ambitious exploration campaign goals set forth by Space Policy Directive 1. Through partnerships both domestic and international, NASA will bring innovation and new approaches to the advancement of these U.S. human spaceflight goals.
NASA Gateway Partnerships Memo May 2, 2018
NASA was building a plan for Americans to orbit the Moon starting in 2023, and land astronauts on the surface no later than the late 2020s. This will be the first chance for the majority of people alive today to witness a Moon landing – a moment when, in awe and wonder, the world holds its breath. However, America will not stop there. A key component of establishing the first permanent American presence and infrastructure on and around the Moon is the Gateway, a lunar orbiting platform to host astronauts farther from Earth than ever before.
Working with U.S. industry and international partners, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is leading the development of the first permanent cislunar outpost, known as the Gateway. The outpost will provide a platform to conduct long-term deep space operations, capability demonstrations to enable future exploration, and meaningful science on and around the Moon. The Gateway's core functions will include power and propulsion, communications, periodic crew habitation, robotics, an airlock, and logistics resupply capabilities. The logistics resupply capabilities are being procured by Kennedy Space Center (KSC) and will be the means by which services are provided for transporting cargo, equipment and consumables to and from the Gateway.
On the Gateway, America and its partners will prepare to transit deep space, testing new technologies and systems as we build the infrastructure to support missions to the surface of the Moon and prepare for the epochal mission to Mars. NASA also will study the effects of the deep space environment of the Gateway, learning how living organisms react to the radiation and microgravity of a deep space environment over long periods.
By the late 2020s, a lunar lander capable of transporting crews and cargo will begin trips to the surface of the Moon. The sustainable, long-term lunar surface activities enabled by these efforts, in tandem with the Gateway, will expand and diversify over time, taking advantage of the Moon and near space for scientific exploration in the broadest sense. As NASA set its sights on returning to the Moon, and preparing for Mars, the agency is developing new opportunities in lunar orbit to provide the foundation for human exploration deeper into the solar system. As part of the fiscal year 2019 budget proposal, NASA is planning to build the Gateway in the 2020s - an orbital outpost concept in the vicinity of the Moon with U.S. industry and the International Space Station partners.
- The power and propulsion element will be the initial component, and is targeted to launch in 2022. Using advanced high-power solar electric propulsion, the element will maintain the Gateway’s position and can move the Gateway between lunar orbits over its lifetime to maximize science and exploration operations. As part of the agency’s public-private partnership work under Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships, or NextSTEP, five companies are completing four-month studies on affordable ways to develop the power and propulsion element. NASA will leverage capabilities and plans of commercial satellite companies to build the next generation of all electric spacecraft. The power and propulsion element will also provide high-rate and reliable communications for the Gateway including space-to-Earth and space-to-lunar uplinks and downlinks, spacecraft-to-spacecraft crosslinks, and support for spacewalk communications. Finally, it also can accommodate an optical communications demonstration – using lasers to transfer large data packages at faster rates than traditional radio frequency systems.
- The Logistics Module must deliver pressurized and/or unpressurized cargo to the Lunar Gateway located in a Near Rectilinear Halo Orbit (NRHO) beginning no earlier than 2024 (dependent on development and/or launch of other Gateway modules). It is expected that the initial requirement will be for three missions, with a single mission expected to deliver up to 5 metric tons of pressurized cargo and 2.6 metric tons of unpressurized cargo. The first Logistics Module may be required to transport a Robotic Arm as unpressurized cargo. The Logistics Module must include guidance and navigation, power generation, and propulsion to enable autonomous docking to a port on the Utilization Module or Habitat Modules via an International Docking System Standard (IDSS) compliant docking port. Once docked, the module will be used by crew primarily for stowage volume, trash stowage, and trash disposal. In addition, the module will depart the Gateway and perform self-disposal without assistance after a period of no more than three years of cislunar space operations. It is anticipated that the first two logistics missions will launch the Logistics Module using commercial launch vehicles, but after Gateway assembly, the Space Launch System (SLS) may be available for co-manifested logistics delivery.
- Habitation capabilities launching in 2024 will further enhance abilities for science, exploration, and partner (commercial and international) use. The Gateway’s habitation capabilities will be informed by NextSTEP partnerships, and also by studies with the International Space Station partners. With this capability, crew aboard the Gateway could live and work in deep space for up to 30 to 60 days at a time. Crew will also participate in a variety of deep space exploration and commercial activities in the vicinity of the Moon, including possible missions to the lunar surface. NASA also wants to leverage the Gateway for scientific investigations near and on the Moon. The agency recently completed a call for abstracts from the global science community, and is hosting a workshop in late February to discuss the unique scientific research the Gateway could enable. NASA anticipates the gateway will also support the technology maturation and development of operating concepts needed for missions beyond the Earth and Moon system.
- Adding an airlock to the gateway in the future will enable crew to conduct spacewalks, enable science activities and accommodate docking of future elements. NASA is also planning to launch at least one logistics module to the Gateway, which will enable cargo resupply deliveries, additional scientific research and technology demonstrations and commercial use.
Following the commercial model the agency pioneered in low-Earth orbit for space station resupply, NASA plans to resupply the Gateway through commercial cargo missions. Visiting cargo spacecraft could remotely dock between crewed missions. Drawing on the interests and capabilities of industry and international partners, NASA will develop progressively complex robotic missions to the surface of the Moon with scientific and exploration objectives in advance of a human return. NASA’s exploration missions and partnerships will also support the missions that will take humans farther into the solar system than ever before.
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