NASA announces the Progress Made on the Construction of Orbital Lunar Gateway

After NASA officially awarded Northrop Grumman a contract worth $935 million to build the first Habitation and Logistics Outpost (HALO) module for the Gateway on July 9, 2021, the company has been putting more effort for the success of the project. NASA recently announced the progress made on this fascinating project. What is this update all about? What did NASA hope to achieve from this project? Will the Lunar Gateway move us closer living on the moon and Mars? Continue reading to find out.

NASA’s Big Announcement on the Lunar Gateway Construction

On October 3, NASA announced that the structural welding of the Habitation and Logistics Outpost (HALO) module will ship from Italy to Gilbert, Arizona, United States. When it finally arrived, Northrop Grumman will proceed to install other components on the structure to support future Artemis missions to the moon and beyond. This announcement shows that the structural welding of the lunar gateway is completed by professionals in Italy. The remaining job will be accomplished by Northrop Grumman Engineers and scientists.

NASA has already announced that the Habitation and Logistics Outpost (HALO) module for the Lunar Gateway will serve as a space habitat for astronauts traveling beyond low Earth orbit. It will also serve as a command post for the lunar orbiting facility. The Gateway will be constructed to provide docking ports for lunar landers, Orion Spacecrafts and cargo vehicles such as SpaceX’s Dragon XL. It will provide additional ports for other modules of space vehicles to accommodate International partners.

Northrop Grumman will build the HALO based on the design of Cygnus spacecraft with additional modification including enhanced life support, docking ports and other advanced subsystems. NASA concluded on this contract with a price that will take care of HALO’s assembly and its integration with another Gateway module known as the Maxar-built Power and Propulsion Element (PPE). Upon completion, Northrop is also mandated by the contract to prepare the combined modules for launch atop a SpaceX Falcon Heavy and its activation and supervision afterward in space.

When NASA Plans to Launch the Lunar Gateway

Plans to launch the Lunar Gateway began as of early 2020. In March 2020, NASA officially announced its partnership with SpaceX to deliver the first two modules of the Gateway using SpaceX Falcon Heavy Rocket in November 2024. NASA’s officials are working towards launching the gateway before the end of 2024 to ensure that the habitat supports future Artemis 3 mission. NASA previously want to launch the HALO and PPE modules individually.

However, the agency later changed its mind as combining both modules in a single launch will reduce cost and complexity of the mission. After both modules have been launched, SpaceX future Dragon Capsule will move them to a highly elliptical seven day near rectilinear halo orbit around the moon. At this point, the station will orbit within 1,500 km (930 mi) over the lunar north pole surface at nearest approach. At its furthest point, it can move up to 70,000 km (43,000 mi) over the lunar south pole.

During a press conference, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson shared his view about the outcome of the Lunar gateway. “NASA is building the infrastructure to expand human exploration further out into the solar system than ever before, including Gateway, the lunar space station that will help us make inspirational scientific discoveries at and around the moon,” Nelson said in the statement. “The HALO is a critical component of Gateway, and this exciting announcement today brings us one step closer to landing American boots on both the moon and Mars.”  

Conclusion

The recent announcement made by NASA as regard to the progress of the Lunar Gateway has shown that we are getting closer to extending the presence of humans in deep space. After colonizing the moon, we may be looking towards going to Mars and beyond. And the Lunar gateway will play a vital role in ensuring that we reach a greater milestone without becoming frustrated in deep space. What do you think about this latest development?

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