The first part of NASA’s lunar Gateway to be built by Maxar
By Cat Hofacker|May 23, 2019
The Colorado-based space technology company Maxar Technologies Inc. was awarded a $375 million contract to develop and build the power and propulsion element of NASA’s lunar Gateway, Administrator Jim Bridenstine announced Thursday.
This is the first commercial contractor NASA has announced for Gateway, a key part of the planned 2024 moon landing mission. Officially called the Lunar Orbital Gateway, the space station that NASA has described as about the size of a studio apartment is meant to be a reusable base of operations to include astronaut living quarters and a science laboratory.
The Gateway “is a critical capability for not just a sustainable lunar return, but also an eventual journey to Mars,” Bridenstine said in a livestream of the announcement, which was made during an event at the Florida Institute of Technology.
The Gateway will have solar electric propulsion, a combination of solar cells and an ion drive, which will let Gateway “stay in orbit for long periods of time,” Bridenstine said.
Maxar has 12 months to design the power and propulsion element, during which time the company will own the spacecraft, Bridenstine said. NASA’s current timeline calls for the power and propulsion element to be launched by the end of 2022.
“We will have the option to take possession of it after it’s on orbit,” Bridenstine said. “In other words, we acquire it commercially.”
Blue Origin and Draper will work with Maxar in designing, building and operating the spacecraft through a demonstration period, Maxar said in a news release.
During his hourlong speech, Bridenstine also talked about how the 2024 moon landing project, dubbed Artemis, will unfold. The Orion spacecraft and NASA’s Space Launch System rocket, both of which are still being built, will launch the astronauts to the lunar Gateway. The crew will get to the surface of the moon in a lunar lander, though NASA has yet to choose a company to build one.
“SLS and Orion is the only system that gives us a chance of getting there by 2024,” Bridenstine said.