On 5th June last year, NASA inked a contract with Northrop Grumman to start working on a Lunar Gateway habitation module. The contract value is $187 million for the facilitation of Habitation and Logistics Outpost (HALO), which is expected to be an initial habitat for crews touring the lunar Gateway. NASA illustrated the module to be of the same size as a small studio apartment, supports crews’ short stays who arrive on Orion spacecraft.

However, the contract does not comprise all work that is required for HALO. Instead, the contract agreement says that the funds will be used in designing the module via a preliminary design. Northrop Grumman is also allowed to subcontract for hardware, while the contract modification is expected later to finance HALO’s entire development and testing.

In 2016, Orbital ATK, which Northrop Grumman later obtained, was among the six companies that got awards for NASA’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) program to learn about habitation modules. NASA said that it plans to utilize the NextSTEP program to choose the HALO contractor.

The Northrop module takes its Cygnus spacecraft that is used to carry cargo to the ISS (International Space Agency). The vice president of civil and commercial satellites at Northrop Grumman, Steve Krein, said that the Cygnus spacecraft’s success and productivity line would enable the company to develop the HALO module.

Northrop said that Cygnus design would be done some modifications for the HALO module. This includes installing various docking ports to lodge Orion spacecraft as well as other Gateway elements. HALO module will have an enhanced life support system to aid the touring crews and new control and command systems. However, both NASA and Northrop Grumman did not reveal the contract duration.

Since the announcement last year, NASA’s plans to launch HALO have changed. Early on, the agency had planned to launch it on a commercial rocket and arrive at lunar orbit using propulsion module, docking autonomously with the first Gateway module, launching the Power and Propulsion Element (PPE) separately. Later, NASA officials said that they plan to have a single launch comprising of the two modules. They added that by doing so, they would have got rid of the two launches and prevent autonomous docking risk in lunar orbit.

Dan Hartman, NASA’s Gateway program manager, said that Northrop would make the HALO’s design simpler by getting rid of the service module. NASA is now planning to procure a launch in November for both HALO and PPE, with the launch scheduled in November 2023.


By Adam

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