NASA has revealed that Administrator Jim Bridenstine will make a “significant” announcement regarding the agency’s lunar exploration plans today.
Administrator Bridenstine is set to make his remarks from the Florida Insitute of Technology at 17:00 UTC (13:00 EDT). Following his remarks, Bridenstine will take questions from the media and then participate in a media teleconference with a number of other high-profile NASA personnel. The full address will be broadcast live on NASA Television on YouTube and from the agency’s website.
The announcement is expected to reveal the commercial partner selected to develop the first segment of the agency’s Lunar Gateway outpost. The outpost will serve as a staging point for astronauts to launch missions to the surface of the Moon, return and refuel, and then launch again with the same reusable spacecraft. This should allow for several exploratory missions to be launched each year, something that would not be possible if the missions where being launched from Earth.
The first segment of the Lunar Gateway outpost to be built and launched will be the power and propulsion element (PPE). This segment is expected to be a high-power 50kW solar electric propulsion spacecraft section. It will also serve as a mobile command module and provide a communications relay for both human and robotic missions to the Moon’s surface. NASA hopes to launch the PPE in late 2022.