Members of the International Space Station (ISS) have released a joint statement indicating that they will continue to support the development of NASA’s lunar Gateway, despite changes made in the timeline of its construction.
NASA’s partners in the ISS also known as the Multilateral Coordination Board (MCB), which includes the five space agencies involved in the ISS, namely the United States, Canada, Europe, Japan, and Russia have expressed their solidarity and called the lunar Gateway “a critical next step” in human space exploration and that they plan to contribute modules or other elements for the facility in lunar orbit.
“The Gateway will support human and robotic access to the lunar surface, and build invaluable experience needed for the challenges of later human missions to Mars,” the MCB’s joint statement said. the
Later on, the members lauded the project because of its unique location because it can offer a platform for important scientific discovery in a deep space environment very different from that of the ISS.
Furthermore, pursuing the project could also enable more extensive lunar surface exploration. Its special orbit will also provide excellent visibility of both the Earth and the Moon’s surface for communications relay purposes.
The positive response from the MCB comes after NASA adjusted its initial 2028 lunar moon landing to 2024 after Vice President Mike Pence announced at a meeting of the National Space Council that the U.S. would speed up its lunar exploration timeline.
Fortunately, NASA’s partners in the International Space Station remain committed to participating in the lunar Gateway despite changes to the program that could delay their contributions to the outpost.
In a diagram included in the statement, a result from the agreement during their initial March 5 meeting, indicated that the member countries would proceed with constructing their respective components for the Gateway.
“The MCB endorsed plans to continue the Gateway development. It welcomed each agency’s intention to proceed toward their respective stakeholders’ approval and funding processes for providing specific elements, modules, and capabilities to the Gateway and associated benefits based on a common concept,” the statement said.
According to NASA, after announcing an advanced lunar landing, it would initially pursue a minimal Gateway in the mean time in order to successfully pursue Artemis mission 2024. Meanwhile, the completion of the lunar Gateway may be done in a second phase in a much later 2020s date.
That minimal Gateway will include the Power and Propulsion Element, which will generate power for the Gateway and provide electrical propulsion, which NASA has previously awarded a contract to Maxar Technologies in May.
Consequently, Maxar took SolAero Technologies Corporation under its wing because SolAero will design and manufacture Solar Power Modules (SPMs) that will supply nearly 70 kilowatts to the Gateway using its latest generation, quadruple-junction “Z4J” solar cells.
The other piece to the minimal Gateway is a “mini-hab” module, which NASA now calls the Habitation and Logistics Outpost (HALO). Thye space agency has also awarded a sole-source contract to Northrop Grumman after determining that the company was the only one that could have a module ready in time to support a 2024 landing mission.
Those two modules, along with the Space Launch System and Orion vehicles and lunar landers, “will help enable the Artemis program’s plans for a 2024 human lunar landing mission and ensure compatibility and technical capability for the Gateway partnership,” the statement concluded.
The statement also noted that Japan is studying potential “habitation functions and logistics resupply” capabilities for the Gateway, and Roscosmos is planning a multipurpose airlock module.
Meanwhile, the European Space Agency have yet to decide what roles it will play in the Gateway, which may include a habitation module, communications and refueling capabilities, and a science airlock.
In addition to the two initial elements, NASA earlier this month issued a call for proposals for commercial logistics services for the Gateway. The Gateway Logistics Services request for proposals (RFP) will be offering up to $7 billion in contracts to support operations of the much-needed transportation of materials to construct the lunar Gateway.
“The partnership will coordinate to ensure Gateway development continues in a timely manner to realize near and long-term goals, prepare for early utilization activities on Gateway, and consider opportunities for further cooperation related to lunar surface exploration – leading to the exploration of Mars,” the joint statement concluded.