Proposed cis-lunar Gateway.
Credit: Lockheed Martin



Work is progressing on fleshing out designs and capabilities of a new habitable structure near the Moon, known as the Gateway.

International partners for the proposed cis-lunar Gateway.
Credit: ESA

Late last year, the European Space Agency (ESA) commissioned two consortia – one led by Airbus and the other by Thales Alenia Space – to undertake parallel studies into the design of a scientific airlock.

Similar to the Japanese Experiment Module Kibo on the International Space Station, this airlock will allow scientific experiments to be transferred from the Gateway to and from outer space.

A possible design for a scientific airlock that could form part of Europe’s ESPRIT module on the Gateway is lowered into a test pool by members of an Airbus-led consortium in Marseilles, France.
Credit: ESA



Underwater mockup

The scientific airlock forms one part of a European module called ESPRIT – a module that will also enable refuelling and provide telecommunications with the Moon and Earth.

Underwater testing of a concept for the scientific airlock which will form part of Europe’s ESPRIT module for the Gateway – a new habitable outpost near the Moon.
Credit: Arnauld Probst

Designed and constructed by French company Comex for Airbus, the mockup of ESPRIT’s interior was recently tested underwater to simulate the weightlessness of space. The underwater appraisal was meant to confirm a preliminary inner design and identify the best place to put handrails to ensure optimal stability of the crew as they carry out payload handling and airlock operations.

At this stage both companies will be asked to present their concepts and costings for consideration ahead of ESA’s next Ministerial Council in November.

The Lockheed Martin Habitat Ground Test Article (HGTA) Lunar habitat prototype is designed to accommodate a variety of missions around the Moon.
Credit: Lockheed Martin

Prototype cislunar habitat

Meanwhile, under a public-private partnership as a part of NASA’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) Phase II study contract, Lockheed Martin has completed the initial ground prototype for a cislunar habitat.

The full-scale prototype, or Habitat Ground Test Article, is built inside of a repurposed shuttle-era cargo container, called a Multi-Purpose Logistics Module, at Kennedy Space Center.


Lockheed Martin will soon transition the prototype to the NASA NextSTEP team for assessment.

Inside look at prototype cis-lunar Gateway.
Credit: Lockheed Martin



Astronaut feedback

During the upcoming week of March 25, a team of NASA astronauts will live and work inside the prototype, evaluating the layout and providing feedback. The NASA test team will also validate the overall design and will be able to evaluate the standards and common interfaces, like the International Docking System Standard, and how to apply those systems for long-term missions based at the Lunar Gateway.

Once NASA testing has completed, Lockheed Martin will continue to optimize and study the prototype to prepare for other lunar efforts, according to a company press statement.

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