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article imageNASA picks SpaceX to launch 1st Gateway elements to the moon

By Karen Graham     Feb 10, 2021 in Technology
Cape Canaveral - NASA has selected SpaceX to deliver the first two segments of the moon-orbiting Gateway space station for its upcoming Artemis program, which aims to put astronauts back on the moon. The elements will launch atop a Falcon Heavy rocket, sometime in 2024.
NASA's selection of Hawthorne, California-based Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) is the second contract awarded to SpaceX in the last week. The first was a contract worth $98.8 million to launch NASA's SPHEREx astrophysics mission, announced on February 4.
In NASA's Feb. 9 press release, the agency says a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket will be used to launch services for its Power and Propulsion Element (PPE) and Habitation and Logistics Outpost (HALO), the foundational elements of the Gateway.
The launch will be from Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The mission will cost NASA $331.8 million, including launch service and other mission-related costs, and is scheduled to blast off no earlier than May 2024.
Once the Gateway is in lunar orbit, it will be used as an outpost for astronauts and equipment headed to the moon as part of the NASA Artemis program, according to Space.com. The Gateway will be about one-sixth the size of the International Space Station, but it will provide support for research investigations, crew, and expeditions to the lunar surface.
Falcon Heavy and STP-2 are vertical on Launch Complex 39A on June 24  2019.
Falcon Heavy and STP-2 are vertical on Launch Complex 39A on June 24, 2019.
SpaceX
The PPE is a 60-kilowatt class solar electric propulsion spacecraft being built by Maxar Technologies that also will provide power, high-speed communications, attitude control, and the capability to move the Gateway to different lunar orbits, providing more access to the Moon’s surface than ever before.
HALO is being built by Northrop Grumman Space Systems and will give astronauts a place to stay on their way to the moon. Astronauts traveling to the moon will launch aboard crew-toting capsules, like Orion, and HALO will provide docking support for those vehicles.
NASA originally planned to launch PPE and HALO separately, then have the two modules dock autonomously around the moon, reports Space News. However, a year later NASA reconsidered that approach.
By May of 2020, agency officials had determined that combining the two modules and launching them together would save the cost of one launch, as well as eliminate the need for a service module on HALO to provide power and propulsion during its transit to the moon.
More about NASA, Gateway, Lunar outpost, Spacex, falcon heavy
 
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