NASA puts out the call for Gateway’s first element

Solar electric propulsion
An artist’s conception shows a spacecraft that incorporates a solar electric propulsion system. (NASA Illustration)

NASA has laid out its plan for acquiring the first piece of its successor to the International Space Station, an outpost known as the Gateway that will be stationed in lunar orbit.

A draft solicitation, published today, calls for commercial partners to build one or more candidates to serve as the Gateway’s power and propulsion element, with launch set for 2022.

The Power and Propulsion Element would have a high-power, 50-kilowatt solar electric propulsion system capable of maintaining the Gateway’s position and moving it between different lunar orbits as needed. The spacecraft would also serve as the Gateway’s communications hub.

There’s be an in-space flight demonstration of the commercial spacecraft, lasting for up to a year. Then NASA could exercise an option to acquire one spacecraft for use as the first element of the Gateway.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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