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NASA awards contract to Northrop Grumman to design lunar Gateway station

NASA is continuing with its plans to build the Gateway space station that will orbit around the moon, as part of its efforts to create a sustainable, long-term lunar presence. The agency has announced it is awarding a $187 million contract to aerospace company Northrop Grumman to design the habitation and logistics outpost (HALO) for the station, with a first design review expected by the end of the year.

The HALO is the area where astronauts will live during visits to the space station. It needs to be a pressurized living space with life support, which NASA describes as being about the size of a small studio apartment. The idea is that astronauts can stop off at the space station on their way to and from the moon, making the logistics of lunar missions easier to manage and potentially be used as part of the infrastructure for getting humans to Mars in the future.

“This contract award is another significant milestone in our plan to build robust and sustainable lunar operations,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement. “The Gateway is a key component of NASA’s long-term Artemis architecture and the HALO capability furthers our plans for human exploration at the Moon in preparation for future human missions to Mars.”

Artist's concept of the Gateway power and propulsion and Habitation and Logistics Outpost, or HALO, in orbit around the Moon.
Artist’s concept of the Gateway power and propulsion and Habitation and Logistics Outpost, or HALO, in orbit around the Moon. NASA

Creation of the Gateway station will be an international effort, with contributions from other space agencies to both HALO and another aspect of the station, the power and propulsion element (PPE). “We’re making significant progress on these first two elements, including incorporation of components from ESA (European Space Agency), the Canadian Space Agency, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, and payloads from our research communities,” said Dan Hartman, Gateway program manager at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

NASA has already announced other contracts for the Gateway project, such as a commercial partnership with SpaceX to deliver cargo to the Gateway space station in addition to the commercial crew and commercial cargo programs to deliver astronauts and cargo to the International Space Station.

Despite the delays to many projects caused by the coronavirus pandemic, NASA still intends to continue with its Artemis mission which aims to put astronauts back on the moon by 2024. The broader Artemis mission includes setting up longer-term infrastructure on and around the moon, including the Gateway space station.

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