Yesterday,28 March 2017,NASA posted an article to its website unveiling the most detailed plan yet for the Orion Program.The new projects,which it calls Deep Space Gateway,expand upon the basic concept of using cislunar space,the area in the lunar vicinity,as a testing ground for missions to the Mars system and elsewhere in the solar system.These projects will enable the building and testing of systems needed for the Mission to Mars and other celestial bodies.*
NASA now intends to build a spaceport,essentially a small space station,within the early Orion crewed missions,to serve as a gateway to deep space and the lunar surface as well.It will contain a power bus;a small habitat that would extend crewed mission time;docking capability;airlock;and servicing by logistics modules to enable research.The spaceport,which NASA also calls the gateway,will be propelled by high power electric and chemical propulsion to sustain the station's orbit or transfer it among a family of orbits in cislunar space as needed.The gateway will be made possible by the Space Launch System rocket's cargo capability plus the Orion spacecraft's crewed deep space capability.The project will be developed,serviced and utilised in collaboration with commercial and international partners,NASA pointed out.*
Dr.William Gerstenmaier,NASA Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations,described the Deep Space Gateway thusly:
I envision different partners,both international and commercial,contributing to the gateway and using it in a variety of ways with a system that can move to different orbits to enable a variety of missions.The gateway would move to support robotic or partner missions to the surface of the Moon;or to a higher lunar orbit to support missions departing from the gateway to other destinations in the solar system.*
The agency also intends to build a reusable transport spacecraft powered by electric/chemical propulsion that will depart from the gateway for destinations such as Mars.It will take crews to their destination,then return to the spaceport for servicing and eventual reuse.This transport vehicle will also take advantage of the SLS capability to launch large volumes and mass,as well as advanced exploration technologies now being developed and tested on the ground and in the ISS.*
The first integrated flight of the Orion system,Exploration Mission-1,including the new SLS rocket,Orion spacecraft and ESA Orion Service Module,is currently scheduled for 2018,but would be delayed to 2019,if a NASA study now underway recommends making EM-1 a crewed mission.*
This burst of energy from NASA no doubt reflects the strong commitment of President Donald Trump to the agency and America's continued leadership in aerospace.