NASA has shared a number of images showing what its upcoming Lunar Gateway space station will look like when it launches for the moon in 2024.
The agency said the orbiting laboratory would provide astronauts with a ‘home away from home’ during trips to the moon, and a staging post for lunar landings.
The orbiting lab will have a four person capacity and will see NASA work with some existing International Space Station partners including Europe, Japan and Canada.
Large parts of the station will be built by commercial partners and will have a docking port for the SpaceX Starship lunar lander that will ferry astronauts between the orbiting base and the surface of the moon.
NASA also confirmed that the platform will help address one of the biggest concerns for space travel beyond Earth’s orbit by measuring radiation levels.
The radiation-detecting suite of research instruments is planned to launch inside the first module of the multipurpose international outpost, which will be in a highly elliptical seven-day orbit around the Moon.
NASA has shared a number of images showing what its upcoming Lunar Gateway space station will look like when it launches for the moon in 2024
The agency said the orbiting laboratory would provide astronauts with a ‘home away from home’ during trips to the moon, and a staging post for lunar landings
The orbiting lab will have a four person capacity and will see NASA work with some existing International Space Station partners including Europe, Japan and Canada
LUNAR GATEWAY: A SPACE STATION AROUND THE MOON
International space-faring countries involved in the International Space Station have their sights set on the Moon for the next space station.
The NASA-led project will see the Lunar Gateway built in orbit around the Moon as part of the Artemis mission.
International space-faring countries involved in the International Space Station have their sights set on the Moon for the next space station.
The agreement, signed in September 2017, is part of a long-term project to send humans to Mars.
The crew-tended spaceport will orbit the moon and serve as a ‘gateway to deep space and the lunar surface,’ NASA has said.
The first modules of the station could be completed as soon as 2024.
Europe, Japan and Russia are also involved in the Gateway.
The European Space Agency will build its own service and habitation modules.
Lunar Gateway forms a core part of the Artemis missions, which will see NASA put the first woman and next man on the moon by 2024, although it could be delayed.
The bulk of the Artemis mission, including the Lunar Gateway, will be sent to the moon using NASA’s new massive Space Launch System rocket.
Development on the rocket is nearly finished, with the first test flight – which will send the Orion spaceship around the moon without a crew – due to happen late this year or early next year.
However, NASA announced in February they would begin construction of Gateway using the SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch vehicle.
Elon Musk’s space firm will launch the foundational elements of the Gateway to lunar orbit.
This includes the Power and Propulsion Element (PPE) and the Habitation and Logistics Outpost (HALO).
They are expected to launch for the moon in May 2024 at the earliest, but could be as late as October 2024.
SpaceX also won the contract to land astronauts on the surface of the moon.
The contract, worth $2.9 billion, involves the prototype Starship spacecraft that is being tested at SpaceX’s south Texas facility.
SpaceX beat out Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and defence contractor Dynetics to be the sole provider for the system.
This was a surprising break from the past when NASA has chosen multiple companies in case one fails.
Industry analysts said the decision underscores the fact that SpaceX, founded by Musk in 2002 with the goal of colonising Mars, is now seen as NASA’s most trusted private sector partner.
Under the Artemis program to return humans to the Moon, NASA wants to use the Space Launch System rocket to launch four astronauts on board an Orion crew capsule, which will then dock with a lunar space station called Gateway.
The first crewed mission will be called Artemis 3, taking up to four astronauts to lunar orbit in the Orion capsule, where, if it is ready they will dock with the Gateway.
Starship will be waiting, docked with the Gateway, to receive two crew members for the final leg of the journey to the surface of the moon.
A view of the two elements of Gateway – power and propulsion element (PPE) and the habitation and logistics outpost (HALO)
A view of Gateway’s two elements – power and propulsion element (PPE) and the habitation and logistics outpost (HALO). The two elements will be launched together in 2024 on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy
The two modules are being built for NASA and will act as a staging post for trips to the lunar surface
The idea is for Gateway to be the go-between but for the initial mission Orion might dock directly with Starship – if Gateway isn’t ready.
The astronauts would then spend a week on the Moon before boarding Starship to return to lunar orbit, then take Orion back to Earth.
When it launches in 2024 the Gateway will have capacity for up to four people, but over time it is expected that the facility will grow, with new modules attached.
This is similar to the growth of the International Space Station, which currently has a nominal crew size of seven, which gradually increased since its launch in the late 1990s from between three and six.
The ISS will have a total of 11 people on board for a few days over the next week when the Crew-2 mission launches from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The Orion spaceship (left) will dock with the Gateway after travelling with astronauts from Earth and take astronauts back to the Earth from the Gateway after they’ve landed on the Moon
May 2024: Launch of the power and habitation modules on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket
October 2024: Artemis 3, the first crewed lunar landing mission since Apollo 17 in 1972
March 2026: Artemis 4 will be the second landing of the Artemis program
2026: Delivery of the International Habitation Module to the Gateway station
2027: Delivery of the ESPRIT refuelling module
There are projected to be at least one Artemis flight per year up to 2028 when the station will be opened up for international astronauts.
One day, as new modules launch for the Lunar Gateway, it could expand to become a science and exploration hub away from Earth’s close orbit.
There will be four core modules at launch, the Power and Propulsion Element (PPE) , which started life as part of an Asteroid Redirection Mission, which has since been cancelled by the NASA JPL team.
It will serve as the command and communication centre for Gateway, as well as power the wider station. It is being built by Maxar Technologies who were awarded a $375 million contract by NASA.
The second primary module, being launched by SpaceX in 2024 is the Habitation and Logistics Outpost (HALO), being built by Northrop Grumman and based ona. Cygnus Cargo resupply module.
It will have docking ports, batteries and communications antennae and a fully pressurised cabin for command, control and data handling capabilities.
The third module is being built by the European Space Agency and is called the European System Providing Refuelling, Infrastructure and Telecommunications (ESPRIT) module, also due to launch in 2024.
It will provide additional power, communications, airlock and science capabilities to the other two core modules. It is being built by Airbus and Thales Alenia Space.
SpaceX will operate flights between the Gateway and the lunar surface for NASA using a version of their Starship rocket
Other aspects of the module have been sub contracted to other European firms including some in the UK, with a further part of ESPRIT, the Refuelling Module, due to launch in 2027 with pressurised fuel tanks, a habitation corridor and docking ports.
The final of the first four modules s the International Habitation Module (I-HAB) being built by ESA and JAXA to provide further habitation space. the contract was given to Thales Alenia Space to launch in 2026.
ESA is funding the primary construction, with a life support system from JAXA, avionics from NASA and robotics from the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).
Future modules will include a logistics module, an airlock module, and a robotic manipulator arm to aid with repair work and docking spaceships.
The version of Starship being developed by SpaceX for lunar landings is adapted from the large rocket as it only has to operate in space and on the low gravity lunar surface
Humanity last stepped foot on the Moon in 1972 during the Apollo program.
NASA wants to go back and establish a sustainable presence, complete with a lunar space station, in order to test new technologies that will pave the way for a crewed mission to Mars.
The Artemis mission, including the Lunar Gateway, commits NASA to working with industry and international partners on sustainable lunar exploration, ahead of a crewed Mars mission in the 2030s.
Part of the work with international partners, including the European Space Agency, will see firms around the world, including in the UK, bid to build technology that will be used on or around the Moon.
When it first launches the Gateway will only have habitation and power modules with a maximum occupancy of four
Close-up of the two elements of Gateway – Power and propulsion element (PPE) and habitation and logistics outpost (HALO
The Gateway station will be movable to allow for astronauts to land on different parts of the surface of the moon
British firms will build parts of the new Lunar Gateway space station
British firms will build parts of the Lunar Gateway space station set to orbit the Moon as part of NASA’s Artemis mission to return humanity to the lunar surface by 2024.
The UK Space Agency has signed the ‘Artemis Accords’ with NASA and other nations on the future of space exploration, including cooperation over lunar exploration.
UK companies will be able to bid for contracts worth at least £18 million to construct aspects of the new station.
UK firms will be able to bid to build all or parts of the European Space Agency habitation and service modules.
NASA will also have its own habitation and service modules built by American manufacturers.
NASA had originally planned to work with Russia on the Gateway, another major partner in the International Space Station, but Russia announced it would partner with China instead.
Russia and China are working on their own accord, that will see them construct either a lunar space station or base on the surface of the moon.
Exact details of the partnership haven’t been revealed, but a memorandum of understanding signed by the two nations suggest a complex of experimental and research facilities will be constructed.
The base, it continued, would be ‘designed to conduct multidisciplinary and multipurpose research work.’
Russia has also announced it is considering withdrawing from the International Space Station project from 2025, citing concerns over the safety of the ageing facility.
A top Kremlin official warned that ‘disaster’ was looming for the ISS, putting the lives of crew members at risk due to its age – by 2025 is will be 27 years old and was originally designed to last between 15 and 30 years, according to NASA.
Russia says the first module that will make up a core part of its new hi-tech orbital base is already under construction.
The final orbiting laboratory will include a module designed to act as a tourist hotel, with room for four passengers at any time.
The International Space Station is also increasingly being opened up for tourist opportunities, with Tom Cruise working on a film project to shoot on the station in 2022.
NASA will land the first woman and next man on the Moon in 2024 as part of the Artemis mission
Artemis was the twin sister of Apollo and goddess of the Moon in Greek mythology.
NASA has chosen her to personify its path back to the Moon, which will see astronauts return to the lunar surface by 2024 – including the first woman and the next man.
Artemis 1, formerly Exploration Mission-1, is the first in a series of increasingly complex missions that will enable human exploration to the Moon and Mars.
Artemis 1 will be the first integrated flight test of NASA’s deep space exploration system: the Orion spacecraft, Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and the ground systems at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Artemis 1 will be an uncrewed flight that will provide a foundation for human deep space exploration, and demonstrate our commitment and capability to extend human existence to the Moon and beyond.
During this flight, the spacecraft will launch on the most powerful rocket in the world and fly farther than any spacecraft built for humans has ever flown.
It will travel 280,000 miles (450,600 km) from Earth, thousands of miles beyond the Moon over the course of about a three-week mission.
Artemis 1, formerly Exploration Mission-1, is the first in a series of increasingly complex missions that will enable human exploration to the Moon and Mars. This graphic explains the various stages of the mission
Orion will stay in space longer than any ship for astronauts has done without docking to a space station and return home faster and hotter than ever before.
With this first exploration mission, NASA is leading the next steps of human exploration into deep space where astronauts will build and begin testing the systems near the Moon needed for lunar surface missions and exploration to other destinations farther from Earth, including Mars.
The will take crew on a different trajectory and test Orion’s critical systems with humans aboard.
The SLS rocket will from an initial configuration capable of sending more than 26 metric tons to the Moon, to a final configuration that can send at least 45 metric tons.
Together, Orion, SLS and the ground systems at Kennedy will be able to meet the most challenging crew and cargo mission needs in deep space.
Eventually NASA seeks to establish a sustainable human presence on the Moon by 2028 as a result of the Artemis mission.
The space agency hopes this colony will uncover new scientific discoveries, demonstrate new technological advancements and lay the foundation for private companies to build a lunar economy.