Encouraged by the successful launch of manned spacecraft to the ISS, which has become possible thanks to development of SpaceX, NASA continues to share his ambitious plans for space exploration. Now the us space Agency said it plans to send the first manned lunar module of the space station Gateway within 3 years — in 2023. This database is very important for the implementation of the expeditions to the moon, and if SpaceX really wants in 2024 to return humans to the surface of the moon with a space station it will be much easier to do. However, the construction of a lunar station will not the company Ilona Mask and even Lockheed Martin.
The task laid on the company Northrop Grumman is the us military-industrial giant that is not only engaged in production in the aerospace industry, but also in shipbuilding. She joined the list of companies selected by NASA for development and production of prototype spacecraft for landing on the moon in may 2019. Northrop Grumman is mainly engaged in the production of heavy ships and carriers, and only the last 15 years leads the development of the spacecraft. Her only successful project in this sector is a Cygnus spacecraft — it was used to deliver cargo to the International space station after completion of the program “space Shuttle”. The last flight of the spacecraft on the launch vehicle Antares-230+ was made on 15 February 2020, and after three days the ship successfully docked with the ISS.
The first lunar station
Now at Northrop Grumman have a much more difficult task is not just to bring in the lunar space station, but also to provide all necessary in order to enable future astronauts could use the Gateway as “stopovers” for flights to the satellite of the Earth. Or, perhaps, even to Mars. The first two module of the station is scheduled to launch in the fourth quarter of 2023. NASA had planned to run them on two different rockets and then to connect the modules in orbit, but later changed its mind — now will run from two modules together. To send the station into space is planned… with the help of rocket, the Falcon Heavy, of course! Here is just a game and joins SpaceX.
Module that is instructed to create Northrop Grumman, will be a kind of temporary “home” for the astronauts. In his basis, according to engineers, will be the developments from the space ship Cygnus. Last year, the layout of such a device has already been assembled and tested by the specialists of the company together with NASA. The module assumes the presence of four docking ports, which can accept new spacecraft from the Ground, a system of engines for maneuvering and life-support system of the astronauts. The first phase of development will cost the company at 187 million — then NASA will continue funding the project as the availability of the device.
Remarkably, the second module, the lunar station will be built is already another company (no, not SpaceX) — Maxar Technologies, which received a contract from NASA for 375 million dollars in 2019. This module will be solar panels and the equipment to communicate with Earth. That is the moon station USA is a “hodgepodge”, which will bring together some of the company, and will carry out the launch of the third SpaceX.
Why you need a moon station
Space station in one form or another, mankind has learned to create in the 70-ies (we see this in the ISS), but they were used only in earth orbit. But it is quite another thing to build a station near the moon, what NASA plans to do in the near future with the support of other space agencies and private companies.
The last thing we want to visit the moon, to prove that we can do it, and to leave it at that. We want to stay there. Gateway will allow us to use the advantages of the commercial and international partners so that we stay there and explore more parts of the moon than ever, then move on to Mars, say scientists from NASA.
Gateway should be the foothold of humanity into deep space. Perhaps in the future it will even replace the ISS, which presumably want to withdraw from orbit in the next few years.
The first Gateway goes, will serve as a testbed for technologiesneeded to reach Mars. Today, for example, some components of the life support systems work about six months before giving up. NASA would like to bring this technology to the 30-month cycle of failure-free operation for transport in deep space. At the same time, the US does not want to build another International space station, which compared to the lunar station “within walking distance” from the Earth, but simply to make a “stopping point” where astronauts can stay for a while. It will be much cheaper.