A five-week suspension of U.S. government agencies delayed the development of the first element of the lunar orbital space station, Gateway space Agency NASA for three months, according to the publication Space News, reference published on 26 February, the document on the website of public procurement Federal Business Opportunity USA. The delay will affect the start time of the module, the source says.
According to current concepts (introduced in 2018), the lunar orbital station Gateway will consist of 9 modules. In the published NASA document NASA shall let know the prospective contractor that the development of the first scheduled module, the electric motor (Power and Propulsion Element, PPE) – has been delayed. In fact, the Agency suspended its work and, in particular, the application acceptance, design and technical proposals for the 35-day period in December and January of this year when the government “shutdown”. Initially it was assumed that NASA will check all proposals and sign contracts with contractors to develop components of the electromotive module in March, but now the Agency reports that the Commission of experts of the project can do to the analysis and evaluation of the proposals only by the end of may.
The news source reports that the delay will cause a “Domino effect” and it seems to all stages of the development of a module on the PPE, including the design, Assembly and testing, also postponed to a later date and the expected date of its launch into space. In the published document, NASA stated that the Agency “in accordance with the change of schedule, takes time to start in September 2022 on another date, but not later than 31 December 2022”.
In mid-November last year, NASA announced the beginning of acceptance of applications for participation in the development of the PPE module. The Agency decided to develop a module not on their own, but due to one or more contractors with whom the Agency intends to close the relevant contracts. All tasks in the design, creation and testing of the module will fall on them. According to the previously presented concepts, the module should have a mass of about 7-8 tons, controlled, 12-kW ion engines and give the station with energy of 40 kW is generated by solar panels. In earlier Agency requests indicated that the module will also use chemical engines running on hydrazine and have a tank containing 2000 kg of xenon. The calculated lifetime of the PV module must be at least 15 years. In addition, in the module you plan to use the communication station.
Earlier this month, the Agency reported that it is not against if prospective contractors propose to use in the module PPE technologies that are already being used in commercial communication satellites, however, urged the company to avoid too specific proposals that may need revision as the concept of the module and the estimated cost of the development.
“Electric propulsion module will be largely similar to the communication satellite, so we have eliminated all the strict requirements which are usually raised when building systems which should be used in the composition of the apparatus, which is used for manned missions. Thus we will be able to use those chops, which already has the commercial communications industry,” said bill Gerstenmaier, program Manager for research space during NASA round table February 14.
According to NASA, the proposed terms of cooperation with private companies will be beneficial for all parties who will take part in the project. The Agency will be able to get the finished module, and the company in turn will get access to the advanced technology propulsion systems, “which they can use in their new generation of satellites”.