Tuesday, February 9, 2010

“Gateway” architectures: a major “Flexible Path” step to the Moon and Mars after the International Space Station?

Harley Thronson and Ted Talay
Space Review

With NASA’s commitment to the International Space Station (ISS) now all but certain for at least through the coming decade, serious consideration may be given to extended US in-space operations in the 2020s, when presumably the ISS will exceed its “sell by” date. Indeed, both ESA and Roscosmos, in addition to their unambiguous current commitment to ISS, have published early concept studies for extended post-ISS habitation (e.g., these European and Russian studies, and references therein). In the US, engineers and scientists have for a decade been working both within and outside NASA to assess one consistent candidate for long-term post-ISS habitation and operations, although interrupted by changing priorities for human space flight, Congressional direction, and constrained budgets. The evolving work of these groups is described here, which may have renewed relevance with the recent completion of a major review of the nation’s human space flight program.

The “Gateway” architecture has been evaluated since 2000 as a single, large-volume, multi-purpose, free-space habitat. It was from the start proposed to be simultaneously the next major on-orbit facility after the ISS, operating as a key human space flight “stepping stone” on the way to Mars, supporting lunar surface operations, including space depots, while serving as a “work site” for major satellite repair and upgrade; that is, achieving multiple priority NASA goals via a single facility. The “Gateway” was first studied in depth by NASA’s Decade Planning Team (DPT) and its successor, the NASA Exploration Team (NEXT) (see “Lunar L1 Gateway Conceptual Design Report,” EX15-01-001, hereafter referred to as “Gateway Design Report”). Produced by the NASA JSC Advanced Development Office, this extensive architecture study was developed in response to requirements in coordination with the DPT and NEXT.

Interesting Important Reading, as always,
from the Space Review,

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