The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) will issue a formal call for proposals later this year for its planned lunar gateway transportation operations. NASA, already has an operation, which provides similar logistics operations support to the international space station (ISS) that is currently orbiting the earth.
The planned Lunar Gateway, which will be orbiting the moon at an altitude of 950 miles and will be the home to its planned crew of 4 astronauts. The Lunar Gateway will also be a hybrid space station, thou its primary role will be to support deep space missions to the Mars or the outer planets like Jupiter. These missions could either be manned or unmanned. But it will also have the ability to do scientific research, scanning the solar system and monitoring the moon. Its unique lunar location will also give its crew some amazing views of the lunar surface. You could say, that it will be the ultimate hotel for a very select few.
NASA has already released a draft request for proposals (RFP) for its Gateway Logistics Services program on 14th June, 2019. NASA are hoping to get a reply by interested parties by 10th July, 2019. NASA will then issue a final RFP later this year. Nasa are looking for a space logistics partner, whom can manage both manned and unmanned space craft carrying astronauts and cargo between the earth and lunar orbit.
The Lunar Gateway is just one part of the ambitious Artemis program, which is designed to support the planned landings of astronauts on the moon south pole by 2024. A few years later in 2028, a moon base will be established on the moon and this could be the human race, first off world settlement, a space colony, if they grow anything there.
This Lunar Gateway will act as a lunar staging or distribution hub supporting lunar operations and deep space missions. The spacecraft heading to this gateway will have to carry at least 3,400kilograms or pressurized cargo and 1000kg of unpressurized cargo. The spacecraft will also need the ability to remain docked at the gateway for at least 3 years. The gateway will need to be a large facility as it will be equipped with multiple docking ports and vast solar arrays that will power the station. These docking ports will support several Earth to Moon spacecraft and in time, various Moon Landers. The Lunar Gateway will also act as a maintenance facility supporting all lunar operations. The gateway flight crews will stay onboard for at least 90 days, before rotating home to earth.
NASA request for proposals includes a caveat that the successful service provider must have performed at least, one successful launch. NASA will provide a firm, fixed-price contract for logistics services, with a maximum value of $7 billion over 15 years. NASA had originally planned to stop funding the International Space Station (ISS) in 2020, but there has discussions about extending its operational life till 2028. If they do, NASA will then have two orbiting facilities, one orbiting the earth and the other one orbiting, our nearest neighbor, the moon.
It’s also possible that other space faring nations around the world may request to use the Lunar Gateway as their own staging point for their own voyages of discovery to the moon or even into deep space.
Science fiction writers have been writing novels for generations, highlighting the need for space stations that can act as a gateways to the planets, now NASA is finally building one. Logistics operations are becoming part of the final frontier.
In the very near future, logistics operations will need a new set of rules, which will one day take the human race to the stars, then we can colonize new worlds and call them home.