Fifty years after Apollo, NASA is preparing to return to the Moon, to stay there this time, and to bring together international and commercial partners. To support the robotic and human exploration of the Moon, it is preparing a small lunar station that will also serve as a springboard to reach Mars and the asteroids near the Earth. This outpost will be set up with the partners of the current International Space Station. His configuration is now fixed and we know who will do what.
The future small lunar space station is taking shape. This gateway, which can be translated fromo outpost (a term we chose), whose construction is planned before 2025, is an outpost that will serve as a base for is explore the lunar surface and springboard to other destinations such as or towards an asteroid near the for example.
A few days ago the Multilateral Coordination Committee, which oversees the management of this space station, approved the continuation of its development and set its architecture, as well as the number and type of module that will involve it.
This station will therefore consist of a propulsion and production module of(EPP, Propulsion Element Power) that will be provided by . This will be the first element of this station to be launched with a private. Its launch is scheduled for the second half of 2022 and is confirmed in of NASA for 2020. It will also include two user modules, one of which will be produced by NASA and the other from (Esprit) and two housing modules (of one overall of 125 m3, compare with the living space of 388 m3 of the ). NASA will produce one and ESA, the module International reception form. This station will also include an airlock which allows extravehicular activities and the mooring of visitors' machines, a multi-purpose logistics module to be built by Roscosmos and the intelligent robotic system. What will Canada provide? (Read our article below) Regarding the (there Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), will supply the supply form.
This station will host a maximum of four astronauts, for stays of onefrom one to three months. Because of the high cost of its service, it is not intended to be permanently inhabited. However, to amortize the investment, NASA does not exclude the occupation of this station by foreign or commercial crews. The rotations of the crew will be performed by the vehicle Nasa, whose first test flight is scheduled for the early years of 2020. Most of the items will be launched by (Space Launch SystemNasa launches and commercial launches are also planned, including merchant ships for logistics services (food, water, parts, etc.).
An unprecedented orbit to do everything
This outpost will be installed on aNRHO (Next to straight Halo Orbit) in the Earth-Moon system, neither circular nor elliptical, and relative to L1 and L2. In this orbit, the minimum and maximum distances of the Gateway, with respect to will be 1,500 km and 70,000 km respectively (for memory, the average distance between the Earth and the Moon is 384,000 km). the They will be six days, outside the area of the lunar shadows, allowing uninterrupted communications with the Earth.
This position, near the Moon, offers quite stable orbits near the Earth to allow a relatively fast return in case of emergency. It is also found in a space environment that is representative of deep space. It is therefore a good compromise between the proximity of the Earth and the Moon, a test bed for exploration technologies and an assembly station for future transport vehicles that will make the long journey to Mars, for example. This choice of orbit allows to foresee refueling missions with commercial launchers andpayloads of a between three and four tons, depending on the launcher.
Europe will get two elements
To date, only Canada has formalized its participation, with the announcement of the supply of the intelligent robotic system. Although the participation of the European Space Agency is decided at the end of 2019, in the session of its council at ministerial level, ESA and its industrial partners have started the preliminary design studies of the Esprit scientific chamber I-HAB module. , the two elements of the program it will provide.
- The spirit is a small scientific equilibrium chamber. Includes storage and refueling systems ( is ) of the electric propulsion element (the first American element of the LOP-G), the communication systems with the Moon, the interface points for external payloads and a compensation chamber for the use of payloads scientific.
- I-HAB is a 7 meter long pressurized module with a diameter of 4.5 meters. It presents liveability and life support features, providing docking capabilities to provide interfaces and resources to passing vehicles.
What to remember
- The big international project that will succeed the ISS will be a small station located near the Moon.
- This advanced position will be used to prepare the human exploration of Mars. It will be produced in collaboration with various space agencies, including ESA and Canada.
- NASA, Canada, Jaxa, Roscosmos and the European Space Agency will contribute to its realization.