NASA to sole source Gateway habitation module to Northrop Grumman

WASHINGTON — NASA has quietly determined to provide Northrop Grumman a contract to construct a “minimal” habitation module for its lunar Gateway after concluding it was the one firm that might meet NASA’s schedule.

The company made the dedication in a low-key “Justification for Different Than Full and Open Competitors” doc printed late July 19 on a procurement web site, linked a particular discover issued Could 30 that acknowledged that NASA meant to make use of an present Subsequent Area Applied sciences for Exploration Partnerships 2 (NextSTEP-2) program to obtain the habitation module.

Underneath NextSTEP-2 Appendix A, NASA made awards in August 2016 to review ideas for habitation modules to 6 corporations: Bigelow Aerospace, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, NanoRacks, Orbital ATK (now Northrop Grumman Innovation Methods, or NGIS) and Sierra Nevada Company. For all however NanoRacks, that work concerned the event of floor prototypes adopted by testing, which happened earlier this yr at both NASA facilities or firm amenities.

Within the Could 30 submitting, NASA stated that, in “the curiosity of schedule, economic system and effectivity,” it will procure a number of habitation modules it requires for the Gateway as a follow-on to NextSTEP-2 Appendix A. It didn’t specify the method by which it will choose the corporate or corporations to construct these modules, past using justifications for apart from full and open competitors. It did enable different corporations to submit details about their capabilities by June 13, however in response to the company none did so.

Within the July 19 justification, NASA stated it concluded Northrop Grumman was the one firm that might present a “minimal habitation module” on the company’s desired schedule. “NGIS was the one NextSTEP-2 contractor with a module design and the manufacturing and tooling assets able to assembly the 2024 deadline,” the doc acknowledged.

NASA reached that conclusion, it acknowledged, based mostly on three elements. One is that Northrop’s proposed habitation module is predicated on its Cygnus cargo spacecraft, which is in lively manufacturing. The second was that the corporate had made ample progress on main modifications to the Cygnus wanted to be used as a habitation module, together with the addition of radial docking ports and body-mounted radiators. A last issue is that the small measurement of the module permits it to be launched on industrial launch automobiles with present payload fairings.

NASA dominated out a full and open competitors, or one restricted to only the NextSTEP-2 corporations, due to schedule constraints. To be out there to help the Artemis 3 mission in 2024, which would be the first crewed mission to the Gateway in addition to the mission that may try the primary crewed touchdown on the moon since Apollo, the module must be in place on the Gateway by early 2024, and thus launch by late 2023. That required the module to be accomplished and delivered to the Kennedy Area Heart for launch processing in mid-2023.

NASA stated a full and open competitors for the habitation module would create “unacceptable delays” of 12 to 18 months, whereas limiting competitors to only NextSTEP-2 corporations would nonetheless create a delay of as much as six months. The company additionally stated reaching “ample design maturity” as soon as a module was chosen in these competitions would add one other six to 12 months. “Speeding the design and improvement processes to satisfy schedule introduces unacceptable danger that the resultant module wouldn’t meet the minimal necessities for astronaut habitation wanted to help the 2024 lunar touchdown mission,” the company concluded.

The justification doc will not be itself a contract for the module. Northrop Grumman must submit a proposal to NASA that the company will evaluate “to confirm that the general worth is honest and affordable.” If NASA finds that to be the case, it is going to present a contract with a five-year base interval to cowl improvement of the module and supply to the Gateway, in addition to two one-year choices for checkout of the module and help of operations there.

The justification doc included an estimate of the full worth of the module, however the particular greenback worth was redacted. Northrop has already obtained $18 million via its NextSTEP-2 award, whereas NASA total has offered $87 million to all the businesses concerned in addition to “important” bills incurred via using authorities amenities and gear supporting that work.

The doc offered few particulars about Northrop’s particular module design, apart from it’s based mostly on the Cygnus module. The corporate, as a part of its NextSTEP-2 award, developed two habitation module prototypes: one seven meters lengthy and 4.4 meters in diameter, and the opposite six meters lengthy and three meters in diameter.

The latter model is derived from the Cygnus spacecraft and is probably going the one referred to within the doc. Throughout a panel dialogue on the People to Mars Summit right here in Could, Mike Fuller of Northrop Grumman talked about the 2 module prototypes, then being examined on the Johnson Area Heart. The 2 mockups, he stated, had been meant “to provide NASA a really feel for what the amount constraints are for the assorted completely different sizes.”

“Should you actually wish to go minimalist,” he added, “a three-meter strain vessel can be comparatively straightforward for us to supply on the present manufacturing line.”

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