WASHINGTON — In order to meet the goal of landing humans on the moon in 2024, NASA needs to get one element of its proposed lunar Gateway on contract in the near future so it will be ready in time.
NASA’s latest plans for getting humans back to the surface of the moon involve the development of a scaled-down or “minimal” Gateway in a near-rectilinear halo orbit around the moon. That initial outpost, which can be scaled up later for future missions, would consist of a Power and Propulsion Element (PPE) and a “mini-hab” or “utilization” module that would have docking ports and serve as a habitat for visiting crews.
NASA issued a solicitation for the PPE last year and is currently evaluating several proposals from industry, likely based on current commercial satellite buses that will be equipped with high-power electric propulsion systems. NASA could issue awards for the PPE as soon as this month, although agency officials have said recently that the PPE awards would come this summer.
Less clear is the plan for the utilization module. Several companies are currently working on prototypes of habitation modules as part of NASA’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships, or NextSTEP, ...