Symposium Recap: Representatives from NASA, Maxar, and Northrop Grumman Discuss Gateway Updates 

Tamsyn Brann | August 26, 2020

Tamsyn Brann | August 26, 2020


The second-annual John Glenn Memorial Symposium took place online this past July with a variety of sessions on advancements in aerospace projects and innovations, all focused on the theme of “Powering Innovation from the Sky to the Stars.” 

The second day of the 2020 John Glenn Memorial Symposium commenced with a panel discussion on NASA’s Lunar Gateway, a next generation spacecraft that will orbit the Moon and play a vital role in humanity’s long-term return to the lunar surface. The panelists included Jon Olansen of NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC), Vince Bilardo from Maxar Space Solutions, and Dave Olberg representing Northrop Grumman.

Olansen, Gateway program production manager at JSC, oversees the design, development, and delivery of the Habitation and Logistics Outpost (HALO) module for the Gateway. He will also oversee the Gateway’s initial launch, during which HALO will be accompanied by the Power and Propulsion Element (PPE).

Excerpt from the 2020 John Glenn Memorial Symposium (AAS)

Unlike the continuously inhabited International Space Station (ISS), the Gateway will serve as a sustainable habitat designed for constant utilization, regardless of whether or not it is actually being manned by humans at the time. Visited approximately once a year, the Gateway will operate autonomously while a human crew is absent.

Two science payloads will fly aboard the Gateway during its launch: one designed by the European Space Agency (ESA) and the second by NASA. Both instrument suites will monitor Gateway’s livability by measuring radiation dosage that future astronauts will face while working at the Gateway, and monitoring solar wind and particles generated by the Sun. The involvement of foreign space agencies with the Gateway project is not limited to the instruments onboard the spacecraft.

Artistic rendering of the Gateway in lunar orbit

“The Gateway will be constructed with the help of international partners,” Olansen said. “That will occur much like the ISS, which has been operational for twenty years and serves as a model of international cooperation.”

Bilardo, the senior executive director for NASA programs at Maxar, provided an update on Maxar’s contributions to the creation of the PPE.

“We have a rich, well-proven heritage associated with the 1300-series bus that we are leveraging to increase the power and electropropoulsion capability,” said Bilardo in reference to Maxar’s 1300-series bus, a satellite model that has been used in the infrastructure of over 90 active spacecraft missions.

Maxar sees their PPE related technology development as entering a new stage in the evolution of solar electric propulsion science. 

“What we seek to do in the PPE is create a third generation of power and propulsion capability with the roll-out solar array,” Bilardo continued, “two of which will provide up to 60 kilowatts of power into the spacecraft bus—unprecedented for any vehicle flying in space today other than the International Space Station.” 

Artistic rendering of the Power and Propulsion Element (PPE) for the Gateway

Olberg, HALO program manager at Northrop Grumman, presented a review of the function and purpose of the HALO module: that it can accommodate internal and external payloads, welcome visiting vehicles with its multiple ports, and feature life-support systems that enable a sustained human presence. 

Just as the PPE has its technical heritage, the HALO does as well. Derived from Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus spacecraft, it has already been designed to meet the exacting standards required by NASA for human spaceflight. Although the influence of Cygnus on HALO has been strong, HALO will possess significantly robust life-support systems as well.

Artistic rendering of the Habitation and Logistics Outpost (HALO) module for the Gateway

“While astronauts periodically enter Cygnus, astronauts will live in HALO — so we offer quite a few more capabilities in that regard,” Olberg said. “We’re quite proud about the fact that HALO really represents the first habitable destination for humans beyond low earth orbit.” According to Olansen, in order to land humans on the Moon by 2024, the first two components of the Gateway — PPE and HALO — must be launched simultaneously in late 2023.

While the Gateway will play a critical role in the success of NASA’s Artemis program, the spacecraft will also enable additional deep-space exploration and support NASA’s goal to create a sustainable lunar presence.

“The Gateway is a fundamental focus of the pursuit to create and maintain a sustained human-capable presence in cislunar space,” Olansen said. “It will remain in lunar orbit and continually maintain that access to the lunar surface, while enabling us to test and evaluate ways of doing business that can be used for future exploration, including sending the first humans to Mars in the coming years.”

Click here to find out more about the 2020 Glenn Symposium. 

Click here to find out more about upcoming AAS events. 

Tamsyn Brann is an undergraduate student studying Science, Technology, and Society at the University of Pennsylvania.