SpaceX will help NASA build a station near the moon. What is it for?

(ORDO NEWS) — In 2024, NASA plans to send humans to the moon for the first time in years. This will be done within the framework of the Artemis program, in honor of the 55th anniversary of the landing of the first man on the lunar surface. During the mission, two astronauts, a man and a woman, are expected to spend approximately one week off our planet.

To make it easier to send people to Earth’s satellite, the agency wants to build a Gateway station and place it in the orbit of the moon. It turns out that the astronauts will first fly to the station, and only then go to their final destination.

Two important parts of the future station are already ready: a module for housing astronauts HALO and a PPE system for powering and moving the station. SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket will be used to send the station into lunar orbit. Here’s why Elon Musk decided to help NASA and what other functions the Gateway station will perform.

Assembling the Lunar Station Gateway

The deal with SpaceX was announced on the official NASA website. In fact, there is nothing strange about Elon Musk’s desire to help the aerospace agency. SpaceX is always open to collaboration and often sends satellites and even humans into space on request from third-party customers. This is her main source of income and the case of Gateway Station is no exception. NASA will pay $ 331.8 million for the delivery of the two main modules of the station to lunar orbit.

A Falcon Heavy rocket will be used for launch. The HALO and PPE modules will be assembled into a single structure in advance and will fly together. They won’t fit inside a standard rocket fairing, so SpaceX will have to use a longer version. According to Spaceflight Now, the development of more capacious fairings is already underway with the Pentagon. The launch will take place from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Moreover, the event will take place no earlier than 2024.

Lunar Station Gateway Modules

The HALO residential module is a sealed structure that will serve as a temporary stay for astronauts. The ships arriving at the station will dock with this module. The first of these ships should be Orion, which has been developed by NASA since the 2000s and will be used to deliver the crew members of the Artemis mission to the station. After docking, the station will be able to become an additional life support system for astronauts.

The residential module will be connected to the PPE energy-propulsion module, which is equipped with solar panels to generate energy. He also has ion thrusters, which are needed to change the location of the station relative to the moon. Also in the system there are antennas necessary for communication with the Earth and devices flying to the station.

In the future, other modules will be connected to the station. And it’s not just about NASA developments. For example, someday the Gateway will have an international housing unit, which will be able to accommodate astronauts from different countries. It is expected that thanks to him, it will be possible to live at the station for 1-2 months. This module is being developed by the European and Japanese space agencies. It is also planned to attach a robotic arm, additional living quarters and supply systems to the station.

What is the Gateway lunar station for?

In general, something big will turn out like the space stations Mir and the ISS. It is noteworthy that the Gateway is planned to be used not only as an intermediate point during a flight to the moon. In the next 10-15 years, aerospace agencies want to send the first people to Mars, and the station will certainly come in handy in this matter. Also in the future it is planned to build a station on the lunar surface. The Gateway structure can become a resting place for future builders.

It is important to note that NASA initially wanted to launch the Gateway station using its own Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. But its development has been going on for almost 10 years and it still has not taken off due to numerous malfunctions. NASA already in 2018 expressed its readiness to abandon the SLS rocket if other companies offer a good alternative. It seems that the moment has come, because SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket is much better than NASA’s craft. The agency has already insured itself in case its Orion ship also shows itself not from the best side. There are reasons to speculate that the Starship, also owned by SpaceX, will be used instead.

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