Five companies have been awarded NASA funding to conduct studies on the development of a power and propulsion module for the proposed Deep Space Gateway. The total combined value of the contracts will top $2.4 million and are expected to be fulfilled within three to four months.
Awarded as part of NASA’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP), the contracts have been given to Space Systems Loral, Sierra Nevada Space Systems, Lockheed Martin, Orbital ATK and Boeing. The studies are expected to complement or add to insight already gained through an internal NASA study.
“We’ve been looking at it internally, but if they have different ideas on the general concept of the gateway, how we can do that and how it aligns with their internal plans, then we’re hoping to get that out of this as well,” said Mike Barrett, manager of the Power and Propulsion Element effort at NASA’s Glenn Research Center.
During the initial request for information virtual industry forum on the PPE for the Deep Space Gateway concept, NASA officials highlighted the potential approaches for the industry studies. Amongst other things, the forum suggested:
“Addressing PPE capabilities and concepts in specific areas such as attitude control, propulsive maneuverability of the gateway, power generation, power interface standards, power transfer to other gateway elements, ability to host multiple International Docking System Standard (IDSS) compatible docking systems; batteries/eclipse duration, 15 year lifetime, communications, and/or avionics.”
Additional study suggestions included, “options and ideas for cost share/cost contributions approaches”, “Assembly integration and testing”, and “meeting the intent of human rating requirements”.
In addition to new insights, officials are also hoping to build on lessons learned during the development of the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM). “There is quite a bit of learning from the work on the Asteroid Redirect Robotic Mission that we’re able to take forward,” said the former director for ARM, Michele Gates.
Although now residing on NASA’s cutting room floor, the initial conceptualization of ARM proved to be a huge leap forward for solar electric propulsion. The research will now luckily be put to use in the development of the Deep Space Gateway.
Image Credit: Lockheed Martin