by Jeff Foust —
WASHINGTON — NASA introduced June 5 that it awarded a agreement to Northrop Grumman to start out do the job on a habitation module for the lunar Gateway, virtually a 12 months just after the agency declared its intent to sole-resource that module to the company.
NASA reported it issued a contract to Northrop Grumman valued at $187 million for the Habitation and Logistics Outpost (HALO) module, which will serve as an preliminary habitat for crews going to the lunar Gateway. The module, described by NASA as the dimensions of a smaller studio apartment, will be capable to aid quick stays by crews arriving on Orion spacecraft.
The deal does not go over all the do the job needed for HALO. As a substitute, the award announced June 5 cash design and style of the module through a preliminary style and design assessment late this calendar year. The deal also lets Northrop Grumman to situation subcontracts for components with very long direct periods. A agreement modification will occur later to fund full progress and screening of HALO.
The only shock about the deal is the time it took NASA to formally issue it. In a July 2019 procurement filing, NASA introduced its intent to challenge a sole-resource award to Northrop Grumman soon after concluding that the organization was the only a single who would have a module prepared to assistance the agency’s designs to return people to the moon by 2024.
Orbital ATK — later obtained by Northrop Grumman — was just one of 6 organizations that acquired awards for NASA’s Future Room Systems for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) software in 2016 to examine habitation modules. NASA later on said it would use that NextSTEP software, formally known as NextSTEP Appendix A, for deciding on the HALO contractor.
Northrop’s module is centered on its Cygnus spacecraft employed to transport cargo to the International Area Station. “The results of our Cygnus spacecraft and its active generation line helps to allow Northrop Grumman to produce the HALO module,” said Steve Krein, vice president of civil and industrial satellites at Northrop Grumman, in a business statement.
Northrop, although, will make sizeable modifications to the Cygnus style and design for HALO, this kind of as setting up several docking ports to accommodate Orion spacecraft or other Gateway aspects. It will also have new command and control systems and an increased everyday living assist method to support visiting crews.
Neither NASA nor Northrop Grumman defined the extended hole between the sole-source announcement and the agreement, while the company said final tumble it was allowing for Northrop Grumman to get the job done on “urgent HALO-related requirements” pending the finalized agreement.
Since that sole-resource announcement last year, NASA has changed designs on how it will start HALO. To begin with it was to start on a business rocket and use a propulsion module to get to lunar orbit, where it would dock autonomously with the very first Gateway module, the Power and Propulsion Factor (PPE), designed by Maxar and released individually.
On the other hand, at a meeting Could 13 of the NASA Advisory Council’s human exploration and functions committee, NASA officers claimed they would now start the two modules collectively on a single launch. Carrying out so, they claimed, would get rid of just one of the two launches and also stay away from the risk of an autonomous docking in lunar orbit.
It also simplifies the design of HALO. “We’re eradicating the provider module that we experienced as component of HALO,” claimed Dan Hartman, NASA’s Gateway plan manager, at that meeting. Combining the two modules on the ground, he noted, means optimizing units, like communications and batteries, that each ingredient needed as a different spacecraft but may possibly be redundant now they will be blended right before start. “We are simplifying the architecture concerning those two.”
NASA at present options to procure a launch for the combined PPE and HALO in November, with that launch anticipated to just take location in November 2023. The modules will use the electric powered propulsion technique in the PPE to spiral out to the close to-rectilinear halo orbit about the moon.
“This contract award is a further significant milestone in our plan to develop robust and sustainable lunar operations,” reported NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine in an company statement. “The Gateway is a essential component of NASA’s extensive-expression Artemis architecture and the HALO functionality furthers our ideas for human exploration at the moon in preparing for long term human missions to Mars.”
Having said that, the original Gateway is not likely to be utilised as element of NASA’s Artemis three mission in 2024. NASA at first envisioned using the Gateway to combination things of a lunar lander. The Artemis three Orion spacecraft would dock to the Gateway and astronauts would then board the lander for the trip to the lunar floor and back.
Irrespective of the contracting measures like sole-sourcing HALO to Northrop Grumman to meet up with that 2024 deadline, NASA no extended expects to have astronauts on that mission go to the Gateway. As an alternative, the Orion spacecraft will dock specifically with the lunar module, most probable in the exact close to-rectilinear halo orbit all over the moon as the Gateway.
“Even although Gateway continues to be significant to our extended-term demands,” reported Doug Loverro, NASA associate administrator for human exploration and operations at the time of that Could 13 advisory committee assembly, “we’re not intending to use for the Artemis 3 mission in purchase to make that mission have a increased likelihood of achievements.”
He additional that Gateway would be utilised for later on missions as NASA seeks to make a additional sustainable infrastructure for human lunar exploration, a single that will include things like adding modules from international partners to the Gateway. The Gateway could also aid the Artemis 3 mission, he reported, as a communications relay.