NASA has announced the awarding of a $375 million contract for the construction of the first module of the agency’s lunar Gateway space station. The module will be developed and built by Maxar Technologies and will provide the station with power, propulsion, and communications.
“The power and propulsion element is the foundation of Gateway,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “It will be the key component upon which we will build our lunar Gateway outpost, the cornerstone of NASA’s sustainable and reusable Artemis exploration architecture on and around the Moon.”
The contract signed by Maxar is unlike anything offered by NASA in the past. It offers a total firm-fixed-price award of $375 million with a 12-month base performance period followed by several option periods.
The spacecraft’s initial design will be completed during the base period. NASA will then have the option to provide for the development, launch and in-space demonstration of the module. Not uncommon with NASA contracts. However, if the agency selects the option and moves forward, Maxar will own and operate the module from launch through the flight demonstration. Once the spacecraft’s capabilities have been proven, NASA will be given the option to acquire it for use as the first element of the Gateway. This ensures the majority of the burden to perform is placed on the contractor and not on the agency.
In addition to the unique contract, the module will also make use of an innovative propulsion system, solar electric propulsion.
“We’re excited to demonstrate our newest technology on the power and propulsion element. Solar electric propulsion is extremely efficient, making it perfect for the Gateway,” said Mike Barrett, power and propulsion element project manager at NASA’s Glenn Research Center.
“This system requires much less propellant than traditional chemical systems, which will allow the Gateway to move more mass around the Moon, like a human landing system and large modules for living and working in orbit.”
NASA hopes to launch the power and propulsion module by 2022.