Following the official announcement of the Space Policy Directive-1, NASA has begun its preparations for a near-lunar port called the Deep Space Gateway.
In December 2017, President Donald Trump signed his first space policy directive that makes the astronauts' return to the moon an official goal of the United States.
Although no timeline, technical details, or budget overview were revealed, the announcement clearly centered on the DSG program.
"This time, we will not plant our flag and leave our footprint, we will establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars. And perhaps, someday, to many worlds beyond," says the President during the ceremony.
According to the White House deputy press secretary, the SPD-1 originates from recommendations by the National Space Council which is chaired by Vice President Mike Pence.
Engaging The Spacecraft Industry In Studying PPE
The Power Propulsion Element serves as an anchor component of the DSG program, handling both power and communications for the cis-lunar station. It will also include two International Docking System Standard ports at both ends.
Upon launching, the PPE is estimated to have a control mass of 7,500 kilograms, which includes the payload attachment hardware and at least 1,200 kilograms of Xenon.
Days before the President's announcement, NASA spent approximately $2.4 million to award multiple contracts on the detailed study of DSG's PPE system to Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Orbital ATK, Sierra Nevada Corporation, and Space Systems/Loral.
PPE Program Director Dr. Michele Gates of the Glenn Research Center says that kick-off meetings between NASA and awardees began the last week of November 2017 and ended the next month. These meetings already marked the start of contract work for the 120-day research.
NASA is anticipating the awardees to provide a preliminary 45-day status briefing within this month. It will then be followed by a draft of their study results at the 90-day point, with the final study results to be presented in 120 days.
Conception Of The Proposed Lunar Space Station
The DSG reached its first milestone in February 2017 when five space agencies decided to anchor the near-lunar port at the Near-Rectilinear Halo Orbit, a giant loop shaped like an egg that extends around 70,000 kilometers from the moon at its farthest point and 1,500 kilometers at its nearest. The meeting was held in Tsukuba, Japan, which is home to JAXA.
This location, a report states, allows the new space station to save propellant in case of orbital corrections. It also allows the station's solar panels to be exposed to sunlight while constantly keeping the facility within the line of sight of ground controllers on Earth.
As part of its preparations for the launch of DSG, NASA plans to send an unmanned test flight to the lunar Distant Retrograde Orbit by November 2018. The mission is slated to last between 26 and 40 days.