NASA is building a Lunar Gateway that will orbit the moon like the International Space Station orbits Earth. While the project is led by NASA, Lunar Gateway will be developed and utilized in collaboration with the Canadian Space Agency, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, European Space Agency, and many commercial partners who want to expand human presence to the moon and set the foundation for crewed voyages to Mars. A year ago in March, NASA announced SpaceX will be the first cargo carrier to the future Lunar Gateway. The company's most powerful rocket, Falcon Heavy, will be tasked with launching SpaceX’s new spacecraft called ‘Dragon XL’ to the lunar station under the agency’s Gateway Logistics Services (GLS) contract. NASA revealed a render of SpaceX's new Dragon variant spacecraft, that will be capable of carrying more than 5-metric-tons to the moon's orbit. Dragon XL will take vital cargo, supplies and equipment that would be needed at the Lunar Gateway station in order to maintain a constant human presence on the moon. NASA says SpaceX's Dragon XL will conduct a series of missions in which the craft will stay docked to Gateway for 6 to 12 months at a time. This week, the agency shared a collection of new renders of SpaceX’s Dragon XL spacecraft heading to Lunar Gateway, pictured below.
When the Lunar Gateway is built it will become a home and office for astronauts who travel to explore the lunar surface under the Artemis program. It will be much smaller than the Space Station but serve a similar function. Located about 250,000 miles away from Earth, Lunar Gateway will feature rooms and laboratories to conduct scientific experiments while orbiting our celestial neighbor. The station will be equipped with multiple docking ports where the Dragon XL spacecraft is expected to attach alongside other vehicles.
All Images Source: NASA/SpaceX
Recently, on February 9, NASA announced it also selected SpaceX as a launch service provider to send the first two segments (modules) of Lunar Gateway atop a powerful Falcon Heavy rocket. The initial elements that will comprise the Lunar Gateway are: the Power and Propulsion Element (PPE), plus the Habitation and Logistics Outpost (HALO). PPE and HALO will launch atop Falcon Heavy from Launch Complex-39A at the John F. Kennedy Space Center in Florida to propel HALO and PPE towards the moon’s orbit. The mission is currently scheduled for May 2024. The PPE is a 60-killowatt electric propulsion spacecraft that is powered by the sun. It will be used to move the Gateway to different orbits around the moon. The HALO is a module that features a pressurized environment where the astronauts can live inside. “It will provide command and control and serve as the docking hub for the outpost,” as well as “support science investigations, distribute power, provide communications for visiting vehicles and lunar surface expeditions, and supplement the life support systems aboard Orion, NASA’s spacecraft that will deliver Artemis astronauts to the Gateway,” the agency shared. Other modules will also be able to connect to HALO to expand the Lunar Gateway station in the future, as pictured below.