NASA Awards Contracts for Deep Space Gateway Power Studies

Boeing Deep Space Gateway (Credit: Boeing)

CLEVELAND (NASA PR) — NASA has selected five U.S. companies to conduct four-month studies for a power and propulsion element that could be used as part of the deep space gateway concept.

The agency is studying the gateway concept with U.S. industry and space station partners for potential future collaborations. These latest studies will help provide data on commercial capabilities as NASA defines objectives and requirements as well as help reduce risk for a new powerful and efficient solar electric propulsion (SEP) technology in deep space.

NASA needs a 50-kW SEP system, which is three-times more powerful than the capabilities available today, for future human missions. Earlier this year, NASA sought study proposals under Appendix C of the Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) Broad Agency Announcement. The request identified 23 topic areas including potential commercial synergies to support development of a power and propulsion element.

Combined funding awarded for the selected studies is approximately $2.4 million. The selected companies are:

  • Boeing of Pasadena, Texas
  • Lockheed Martin of Denver, Colorado
  • Orbital ATK of Dulles, Virginia
  • Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Space Systems of Louisville, Colorado
  • Space Systems/Loral in Palo Alto, California

“NASA will use these studies to gain valuable insight into affordable ways to develop the power and propulsion element leveraging commercial satellite lines and plans,” said Michele Gates, director of the Power and Propulsion Element at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Advancing a high power SEP system will help drive future exploration missions and help take humans farther into deep space than ever before.”

A new power and propulsion element will leverage advanced SEP technologies developed by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate. An overarching objective of these studies is to understand the driving technical differences between prior SEP-powered mission concepts and potential new requirements for NASA’s deep space gateway concept.

For more information about NASA’s NextSTEP, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/nextstep

  • Robert G. Oler

    the usual suspects

  • This is exactly how Apollo got done: have a concept for a certain element of the system, win a contract to refine it, try to win the contract and build it. It got us to the moon the first time, why not the second?

  • ThomasLMatula

    The Lunar Gateway is nothing but the Son of ISS. I just hope it doesn’t get in the way of firms like SpaceX and Blue Origins. If so expect another 20 years of no progress.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Because the NASA contractors hadn’t learn how to milk the system to maximize profits then.

  • Jeff2Space

    Actually Apollo/Saturn was quite expensive due to the “waste anything but time” attitude during the Space Race. NASA’s budget was quite high during the early to mid 1960’s when development of Apollo/Saturn was at its peak.

  • Jeff2Space

    I hope it doesn’t get in the way of Bigelow Aerospace. With BEAM doing quite well at ISS, why would NASA want to build Deep Space Gateway entirely out of tiny aluminum cans?

  • Jacob Samorodin

    Congressmen will not rubber-stamp the budget for this knowing there will be cheaper alternatives with SpaceX, Bigelow, Blue Origin the proverbial elephants in the room.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Yes, but the WW II generation was still running the industry and still had that sense of patriotism in working with the government. They have since been replaced by the Wall Street generation.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Don’t under estimate the power of pork from Old Space.

  • Paul451

    “You despise me, don’t you?”

    “…If I gave you any thought, I probably would.”

  • Aerospike

    I would rather say this is the child of ISS post COTS. SpaceX, Blue Origin and Bigelow will love to support it. (imho)

  • Aerospike

    It’s called an artist rendition, and one from Boeing in this case. Don’t expect the final thing to look like this.

  • ISS has been a very successful program, we will be lucky to have spinoff programs. Unlike NASP, X-33, Shuttle C, SEI and the rest, ISS actually got built. DSG won’t keep any private organization that wants to spend its own money from continuing to do so. Musk and Bezos can pay for whatever they’d like. And since I’d like humanity to spend the next million years in space, starting at the moon for 20 years seems like a good start!

  • Vladislaw

    There was plenty of war profiteering by companies during and right after ww2.

  • ThomasLMatula

    What is the cost at the moment? $150 billion or so? With another $3 billion or so a year. And exactly what was learned from it?

  • ThomasLMatula

    But they did get the job done. And created huge leaps forward in many fields including aviation. Compare that with NASA since Project Apollo.

  • duheagle

    Son of SLS, not ISS.

  • Not Invented Here

    Because Apollo has a clear goal which is to land a human on the Moon, DSG’s only goal is to provide more pork for SLS/Orion.

  • Not Invented Here

    That is not the current plan, DSG would only be manned for a few weeks when Orion was docked to it, there’s very little need for resupply.

  • redneck

    The time from Apollo till now is similar to WW1 to Vietnam. Sopwith Camels over Hanoi?

  • duheagle

    I don’t. But I don’t overestimate it either.

  • ThomasLMatula

    It is interesting to realize their are still aircraft in the USAF inventory, (B-52, KC-135, C-5, AC-130) that probably saw service in Vietnam. The last F-4 in the USAF was only retired last year. And I still see T-38s flying here in Texas that were probably training pilots then.

    Yes, progress in the aerospace industry does seem to have reached a plateau.

  • redneck

    Good points. I think that aviation had a lot more generations prior to the 60s to sort out issues. The relative few on the space side would indicate that not enough things have been tried to reach the plateau on that side.

  • Aerospike

    Plans change all the time, especially those that aren’t even funded yet.

    DSG? At this point, it isn’t even a plan yet, it is an idea.

  • Aerospike

    I bet some form of DSG will be built, even if SLS gets canceled tomorrow.

  • duheagle

    If there is any intrinsic “plateau” in atmospheric aerospace, we’re a long way from reaching it. The pseudo-plateau we’re on now is a product of self-inflicted defense acquisition bureaucracy and the “maturity” and consolidation of the defense industry’s roster of prime contractors to, in essence, three. “Maturity,” in this case, being a euphemism for “capture by lawyers and bean counters.” Now that all those hard-charging, innovative, brilliant – but also willful, cocky and annoying – entrepreneurs who built the U.S. aircraft industry from nothing into a colossus are dead, lesser men are executing “controlled flights into terrain,” I believe is the term of art, with the legacies of our fallen titans.

    We need nothing so badly as we do a fresh crop of Boeings, Douglases, Northrops, Hugheses, Severskys, Sikorskys, Kindelbergers and their ilk. But defense contracting has become a closed shop. It needs to be blasted open again.

  • duheagle

    Given that DSG is custom-tailored as a pseudo-mission for SLS, that seems unlikely. That’s not to say some sort of manned lunar-orbiting platform isn’t a possibility at some point, but it won’t resemble DSG and, more importantly, a genuinely useful such station would not be a product of the Usual Suspects.

  • Robert G. Oler

    and this fresh crop only comes through innovative federal spending

  • Robert G. Oler

    if LG is done just like ISS was done (and of course that is what NASA wants to do) its useless…it is ISS just on a smaller scale

  • Robert G. Oler

    aviation had WW2 where the systems had to work…

  • Robert G. Oler

    because that is where they want to send the money to

  • ThomasLMatula

    And work fast. Both the Mustang and P-80 went from contract signing to first flight in only 3-4 months, verus the years and years you see now.

  • duheagle

    Which is only going to happen if Trump, Mattis, etc., are actually serious about draining the defense part of The Swamp. I’m less encouraged about that possibility than I was earlier.

  • duheagle

    Yes. And they did it in an era of T-square and triangles drafting with no computational help more advanced than slide rules and Marchant calculators. What they didn’t have to get through was today’s glutinous swamp of procurement regulations and cost-plus “accounting” hocus-pocus. A lot of this rot has also cross-infected the civilian sides of the aerospace majors as well. They have rendered themselves literally incapable of either economy or speed.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Yes, and that is the Swamp that needs to be drained.

    About 15 years ago I was involved with a private lunar venture. We asked an aerospace major how much it would cost for them to put a rover on the Moon for us. The price estimated at about $60 million. I asked why it was so much less compared to the missions proposed for NASA. They said because it wouldn’t be done the NASA way following NASA procurement processes so none of the extra costs of doing it the NASA way would be involved. Instead they could just build it and launch it.

  • publiusr

    Infrastructure is always somebody’s “pork”
    So be it.