Concept of view from a deep space habitat
Credit: ESA


The idea of a Deep Space Gateway has garnered high-level interest within the European Space Agency (ESA).

A recent ESA call for academic or industrial research ideas has been issued to discern benefits from such a deep space crewed spaceship in lunar vicinity – one that also enables access to the Moon’s surface.

Broad categories

Research areas for the Deep Space Gateway may fall into broad categories: Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, Solar System Science, Earth Sciences, and Astronomy and Astrophysics, as well as technology and other areas of a more applied nature.

The Deep Space Gateway is envisioned to host crewed missions and operate without crew in between. This facility is planned to be built and operated during the 2020’s as humanities next step beyond low Earth orbit and out into the Solar System.

Staging post

The notional Deep Space Gateway could serve as a staging post for exploration missions to the lunar surface and eventually to other deep space destinations, including Mars. It is also seen as a platform in a location where the human and technological challenges of long duration human missions in deep space can be investigated and addressed.

“The platform is being prepared through international cooperation, led by the partner agencies of the International Space Station,” an ESA document explains, also involving NASA, The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).

“The technical definition of the Deep Space Gateway is driven by the technical needs of preparing deep space human exploration. It could also support opportunistic scientific research,” ESA adds.

Potential orbits

A number of potential orbits have been reviewed for the Deep Space Gateway, to determine their suitability for missions on terms of the operations of a habitat, access and return for crew and access to the lunar surface.

Credit: ESA

Additionally, the Deep Space Gateway should have the ability to move between orbits as needed for different missions.

Of orbits that have been reviewed, Near Rectilinear Halo Orbits and Earth-Moon L2 Halo orbits were found to be technically favorable.

Lunar vicinity science

Scientific areas that could benefit from human operations in lunar vicinity include:

  • Lunar surface science using tele-presence
  • Collecting and returning planetary material
  • Understanding the Effects of Deep Space Radiation and Fractional Gravity
  • Observation post for monitoring Earth’s climate
  • A platform for astronomical observations
  • Fundamental physics
  • Heliophysics

Early concept of Deep Space Gateway
Credit: NASA


Cruise phase investigations

In addition, a number of “opportunistic investigation areas” have been identified for the cruise phase to the Moon, such as:

— Monitor lunar exosphere evolution of the whole Moon through a monthly cycle;

— Quantify impact flashes through the lunar night (clouds get in the way on Earth);

— Monitor human physiology and biomedical changes as the habitat or vehicle moves from within to outside the Earth’s magnetic field (assuming humans are present);

— Install cosmic dust/micrometeorite collectors;

— Target the habitat trajectory to facilitate a lunar eclipse of the Sun to study coronae/Sun composition that is undistorted by Earth’s atmosphere;

— Monitor Earth exosphere (geocorona) in the far ultraviolet which extends half way to the Moon and try to estimate the radiation pressure and its accurate extension which might change with solar activity.

A workshop on research opportunities for the Deep Space Gateway will be held in early December at the European Space Research & Technology Center (ESTEC), Noordwijk.

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