(ORDO NEWS) — NASA’s Gate & Mission Power & Propulsion Element, a 50-kilowatt solar-powered energy spacecraft, is three times more powerful than previous capabilities.
This is the first element of the NASA Gateway lunar station, which will cost more than the initial $ 375 million contract with the firm because the space agency transferred the Maxar Technologies project. This became known from a new assessment by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
According to the GAO, the power and propulsion element of the airlock may also be unable to achieve its goal of demonstrating an advanced solar electric propulsion system in lunar orbit due to delays in the development of this technology.
The element will provide power and movement of the airlock, which will be part of the station serviced by man in lunar orbit, which will serve as a base for astronauts on missions on the surface.
“The value of the contract for the award of $ 375 million serves as a preliminary estimate of the cost of the project,” the estimate says. “Once the baseline value of the project has been established, the final will be above this value because it will include additional costs, such as NASA’s project management activities and cost reserves.”
Another increase in costs is due to the fact that technical requirements were presented before the requirements for the entire lunar station were developed. Engineers subsequently identified gaps associated with the control systems and the amount of power the element should give the station, the GAO said.
“The contractor recommended that NASA modify its spacecraft to address the gaps in requirements that NASA claimed would require a change in the contract,” the GAO said. “Since January 2020, NASA has been evaluating the recommendations of the contractor to fill the gaps in the requirements before amending the contract “.
NASA plans to complete work on the core cost metrics for the item in July, as part of a review of the gateway program.
“The project aims at a preliminary launch readiness date in December 2022, which includes 3 months of reserve on schedule,” GAO said.
Meanwhile, engineers are experiencing delays in developing a system design, which can lead to the fact that the module may not be ready for the time.
The advanced solar electric propulsion system is designed to outperform chemical propulsion systems for flying beyond low Earth orbit. NASA’s goal is to test it in orbit around the moon, if possible.
“Officials said that if the propulsion system would cause delays, the project would have to request removal and replacement,” the GAO said. “Project managers said it was too early to make such a decision in the design process.”
NASA plans to conduct a critical review of the design of the propulsion system in September 2020.
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