NASA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) has found that the launch of the first two modules of the agency’s lunar Gateway space station is more than a year behind schedule.
In a November 10 report, the NASA OIG detailed the challenges facing the Gateway program and how they had been exasperated by ever-evolving mission requirements.
The station’s Power and Propulsion Element (PPE), which will power and propel the station in orbit, and the Habitation and Logistics Outpost (HALO), which will feature a docking port for the Orion spacecraft and working and living quarters for a crew, had initially been scheduled to launch separately.
However, in an attempt to save money by not requiring a second launch, the agency chose to launch both modules at once. The move severely delayed the launch of the PPE which had been slated to be on its way to the Moon by 2022. According to the OIG report, the launch will be delayed by at least 17 months as work on the HALO module, which itself may be delayed several months, is completed.
In addition to delaying the launch, the OIG report found that the move also had other unforeseen consequences.
“The decision to launch the PPE and HALO together, while avoiding the cost of a second commercial launch vehicle, has contributed to cost increases due to the redesign of several components, an elevated launch risk, and a longer duration flight to lunar orbit,” stated the report.
NASA lunar Gateway space station had initially been conceived to act as a waypoint between Earth and the surface of the Moon and beyond for both crewed and robotic missions. The station was intended to support NASA’s return to the lunar surface in 2024. However, as the OIG report notes, the station is unlikely to be ready in time.