NASA has finalized the contract awarded to Northrop Grumman almost a year ago for the construction of the agency’s lunar Gateway station’s crew module. The module is expected to be launched with the power and propulsion element (PPE) by the end of 2023.
In a June 5 press release, NASA announced that it had finalized the contract for the construction of the Gateway station’s habitation and logistics outpost (HALO). The agency indicated it planned to award Northrop Grumman the contract on July 19, 2019. The Virginia-based aerospace titan was selected as the only proposal that could deliver a “minimal habitation module” in the proposed timeline.
The initial $197 million cost-plus contract covers the design of the HALO module, which is expected to be the “size of a small studio apartment”. It will be utilized in tandem with NASA’s Orion spacecraft as the station’s pressurized living quarters where astronauts will spend their time will visiting the station.
“This contract award is another significant milestone in our plan to build robust and sustainable lunar operations,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “The Gateway is a key component of NASA’s long-term Artemis architecture and the HALO capability furthers our plans for human exploration at the Moon in preparation for future human missions to Mars.”
The contract awarded to Northrop sets out a series of “checkpoints” in the design life cycle. This will allow the agency to review progress periodically ensuring the “overall system is safe and reliable for flight.” Once the company has successfully completed all the necessary checkpoints, the agency will award a second contract that will allow for hardware manufacturing to begin.
Initially, the HALO and PPE modules were expected to be launched separately. However, in an effort to reduce complexity and cost, NASA has recently made the decision to instead integrate the modules on Earth. The pair will then be launched in late 2023.