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NASA officially orders the first segment of a lunar space station

  Artistic conception of a spacecraft that moves away from Earth.

Maxar was selected to build and fly the first element of NASA's Moon Gateway.

NASA has selected its first commercial partner for a proposed space station, known as the Moon Gate, to be built near the Moon. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said on Thursday that Maxar Technologies will build the first component of the gateway ̵

1; the power and drive element. As the name implies, it will power the gateway and help move it.

"This time, when we go to the moon, we actually stay," Bridenstine said in the announcement. He has characterized the gateway, which is positioned on a high elliptical orbit between the earth and the gravity of the moon, as a reusable "command module". According to NASA's current plans to land humans on the moon by 2024, astronauts will launch from Earth before boarding pre-positioned lander to bring them to the lunar surface.

Despite Thursday's fanfare, Bridenstine provided an hour-long overview of NASA's ambitious lunar plans at the Florida Institute of Technology for a relatively straightforward contract-the announcement represents a continuation of a Lunar Gateway plan under the Obama administration was initiated. The Obama space plan was to use the gateway as a springboard to Mars, but now the Trump government is turning towards the lunar surface.

There has been a heated debate in the aerospace industry as to whether such a gateway will contribute to the Delta-V energy needed to reach the Moon's surface will help or hinder NASA's efforts to be sustainable Build a space exploration program. Thursday's announcement left no doubt about the acceptance of the project by the White House, meaning that the Gateway concept has successfully passed the transition from one president to another.

Gateway could grow

The contract announced on Thursday has a maximum value of $ 375 million. Interestingly, Blue Origin and Draper, together with Maxar, will design, build and operate the spaceship. Such a partnership opens up the possibility that the power and drive element, which weighs about 5 tonnes and is filled with fuel, could be launched with the new Blue Origin Glenn missile.

During a telephone conference with the media, Maxars Mike Gold said the company would opt for a commercial rocket for the launch of the propulsion and propulsion unit over the next 12 to 18 months. Most likely, New Glenn is the preferred launcher, but Maxar guards himself if the 2022 missile is not ready to fly if NASA wants the hardware in space. (Currently, Blue Origin is working on a launch date for the powerful rocket for 2021, but large rocket projects often shift to the right.)

The Gateway is a unique piece of hardware for NASA, as it will be the cornerstone of its first space outpost. The station will use solar drives to maintain its orbit and maneuver it into other orbits around the Moon. Before people visit the gateway in 2024, the space agency plans to add a small "Habitat" module.

Throughout the 2020s, NASA may expand the gateway with additional modules, including those provided by international partners. Officials said the power from the solar modules of the drive and drive element would be more than enough to allow the extension of the gateway.

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