ISS Multilateral Coordination Board Endorses Lunar Gateway

Gateway with Orion over the Moon (Credit: ESA/NASA/ATG Medialab)

ISS Multilateral Coordination Board Joint Statement

The International Space Station (ISS) Multilateral Coordination Board (MCB) met on August 6, 2019. Its members[1] acknowledged the recent 50th anniversary of the first human steps on the lunar surface during the Apollo 11 mission, praised the ongoing important work of the ISS, and discussed opportunities for the future of human exploration on and around the Moon and forward to Mars.  

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NASA’s Uncertain Path Back to the Moon

Astronauts explore a crater at the lunar south pole. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Nothing illustrates the changes wrought by the Trump Administration’s decision to move up the deadline for returning astronauts to the moon from 2028 to 2024 than a pair of contracts NASA awarded for the Lunar Gateway that will serve as a staging point for the landing.

In May, Maxar won a competitively awarded $375 million contract to build the Gateway’s Power and Propulsion Element (PPE). NASA released a source selection statement that detailed how officials evaluated the five bids they received and why Maxar’s proposal was superior to the others.

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Robert Bigelow Disappointed with NASA Decision on Lunar Gateway Hab Module

NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver and President and founder of Bigelow Aerospace, Robert T. Bigelow, announce a planned addition to the International Space Station that will use the orbiting laboratory to test expandable space habitat technology during a press conference held at Bigelow Aerospace on Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013 in Las Vegas. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Commentary by Robert Bigelow

We have received many inquires about what is going on with the Gateway program. As many of you have already read it appears that negotiations are already underway between NASA and Northrop Grumman for a modified “mini hab” that is going to be docked to the PPE. What we think we know is that NASA wants to use a modified version of the Cygnus cargo vehicle, which is built by Thales Alenia. The current use of the Cygnus is to haul supplies to the ISS and dispose of trash by burning up in the atmosphere.

What has also been discussed is that the Cygnus would be converted to a structure with multiple docking ports. Our understanding at this time is that this structure would internally not have life support systems that without being attached to another structure wouldn’t keep people alive. We agree that a multi-port docking node is a valuable asset.

We have also been told by NASA that there is some future possibility to expect the emergence of a domestic habitat someday. As always, that is precisely what Bigelow is interested in building. In fact, our habitat is actually a standalone space station. We think the B330 standalone space station would make an excellent low altitude lunar depot.

Someday if NASA were to give us the green light, we would be very excited to be part of the Gateway program, a future low-level lunar depot program or to even land a lunar base on the moon.

Robert T. Bigelow
President and Founder

NASA Awards Contract to Northrop Grumman for Lunar Gateway Habitat Module

Credit: NASA

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA has awarded Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems (NGIS) a contract of an undisclosed amount to modify its Cygnus space station resupply vehicle to serve as the minimal habitation module (MHM) for the Lunar Gateway.

Northrop Grumman won out over four competitors that had won contracts to develop mockup habitats under the space agency’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships-2 (NextSTEP-2) program.

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NASA Seeks Input from U.S. Industry on Artemis Lander Development

Astronauts explore a crater at the lunar south pole. (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — In a major step toward returning astronauts to the surface of the Moon under the Artemis lunar exploration program and preparing for future missions to Mars, NASA is seeking comments from American companies interested in providing an integrated human landing system to put the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024.

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Third European Service Module for Orion to Ferry Astronauts to Moon Landing

Orion and European Service Module orbiting the Moon. (Credit NASA/ESA/ATG Medialab)

PARIS (ESA PR) — NASA and ESA have a long term plan for Europe to deliver the European Service Modules for Orion. With NASA’s announcement to bring humans back to the lunar surface before the end of 2024, it was also decided that the third ESA-provided European Service Module will contribute to this mission.

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Angelic Halo Orbit Chosen for Lunar Gateway

PARIS (ESA PR) — Mission planners at NASA and ESA’s Operations Centre (ESOC) have spent months debating the pros and cons of different orbits, and have now decided on the path of the lunar Gateway.

Like the International Space Station, the Gateway will be a permanent and changeable human outpost. Instead of circling our planet however, it will orbit the Moon, acting as a base for astronauts and robots exploring the lunar surface.

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Paragon Selected for 3 NASA Small Business Awards

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA selected three projects from Paragon Space Development Corporation of Tucson, Arizona for funding in its recent round of Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I awards. Each contract is worth a maximum of $125,000 over six months.

Paragon’s Separation Technology of On-Orbit Liquid and Excrement (STOOLE) project is pretty much what it sounds like: an improved system for recycling human waste in space.

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NASA Gives a Financial Boost to In-Space Welding Projects

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA selected two projects for funding focused on developing in-space welding technologies as part of its recent round of Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) awards.

The space agency selected Busek Company of Natick, Mass., and Made in Space of Jacksonville, Fla., for phase 1 awards worth up to $125,000 apiece for six months.

“Busek proposes to initiate the development of a semi-autonomous, teleoperated welding robot for joining of external (or internal metallic uninhabited volume at zero pressure) surfaces in space,”according to the proposal summary. “This welding robot will be an adaptation of a versatile Busek developed system called SOUL (Satellite On Umbilical Line) with a suitable weld head attached to it.

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Tethers Unlimited Aims to Put SPIDERs on Mars

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

During the 1970’s, David Bowie sang about Ziggy Stardust and the spiders from Mars. If Tethers Unlimited has its way, the Red Planet will be crawling with them.

Earlier this month, NASA selected the Bothell, Washington-based company for a small business award to work on its Sensing and Positioning in Deep Environments with Retrieval (SPIDER) surface exploration system.

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NASA Releases Draft Solicitation on Supplying Lunar Gateway

The power and propulsion element of NASA’s Gateway is a high-power, 50-kilowatt solar electric propulsion spacecraft – three times more powerful than current capabilities. (Credits: NASA)

By Laura Aguiar
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

In the latest step in sending astronauts to the lunar surface within five years, NASA issued a draft solicitation June 14 to industry seeking comments for a future opportunity for American companies to deliver cargo and other supplies to the Gateway in lunar orbit.

The first logistics service to the orbital outpost is expected to deliver science, cargo and other supplies in support of the agency’s new Artemis lunar exploration program, which includes sending the first woman and the next man to the surface of the Moon by 2024.

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Orion Launch Abort System Designed to Pull its Weight for Moon Missions

Orion’s Ascent Abort-2 flight test vehicle. (Credit: NASA/Tony Gray)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — Astronauts inside NASA’s Orion spacecraft will soar toward the Moon atop the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket as part of the agency’s Artemis program to establish a permanent presence at the Moon and learn the skills needed to send humans to Mars. Crew members will journey aboard Orion with the confidence knowing the spacecraft is specifically designed with a number of features to support humans traveling to deep space, including a highly capable Launch Abort System (LAS). The LAS is a structure on top of the crew module that can fire within milliseconds and, with the crew module attached, outrun the powerful rocket if an emergency arises during launch.

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NASA Reaches New Milestone on Complex, Large Rocket

Paul Diaz, a Boeing technician, installs one of 360 bolts to connect the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket’s massive liquid hydrogen tank to the core stage’s intertank at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. Next, the engine section and the four engines will be attached to complete assembly of the stage for the Artemis 1 mission to the Moon. (Credits: NASA/Eric Bordelon)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (NASA PR) — NASA achieved a significant milestone in manufacturing the first large, complex core stage that will help power the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket on upcoming missions to the Moon. NASA and lead contractor Boeing have assembled four-fifths of the massive core stage needed to launch SLS and the Orion spacecraft on their first mission to the Moon: Artemis 1.

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NASA Updates Work on Lunar Gateway Habitat

Credit: NASA

Even as NASA’s plans for the Lunar Gateway evolve, the space agency is continuing work on developing a habitat for the crew that will use the facility as an orbiting base for the study of the Moon.

Credit: NASA

Marshall Smith, the space agency’s director of Human Lunar Exploration Programs, gave a press report on habitat development to the NASA Advisory Council Human Exploration & Operations Committee last week.

Credit: NASA

Five companies were commission to produce prototypes for evaluation and testing: Bigelow Aerospace, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Sierra Nevada Corporation.

Credit: NASA

Smith’s presentation did not include a slide on Bigelow Aerospace’s prototype module.

Credit: NASA