NASA is taking the next likely step in the development of a deep space gateway in cislunar space. This is the speculation after they have requested for information about one of its core modules. A request for information (RFI), which was released by NASA on July 17, to seek information from the industry regarding its capabilities to develop a Power and Propulsion Element (PPE). It is a module that will create electrical power and give the gateway chemical and electrical propulsion.
It is currently being envisioned by NASA that the PPE would be the first component of the gateway, and that it will be launched as a “co-manifested payload” aboard the first crewed Space Launch System. It will then take advantage of the extra payload capacity the Block 1B version of the SLS can provide to the gateway. Within the first 100 days of launch, the PPE would head into what is referred to as a near rectilinear halo orbit around the moon.
The request also includes the basic capabilities and requirements that NASA believes it needs should it be developing the deep space gateway module, which will likely last up to 15 years and be equipped with a solar electric propulsion system that utilizes xenon propellant, and also chemical thrusters which use hydrazine. In addition, the module will weigh around 7,500 kilograms for it to be co-manifested as an SLS payload, including a tank that has 2,000 kilograms of xenon.
As it produces electrical power, the PPE should be able to transfer up to 24 kilowatts to other modules that are later added to the gateway. It will also be able to support communications of different bands and an optical communications demonstration payload.
NASA has asked potential respondents in the submitted RFI about their organizations’ ability to produce the PPE, which also includes a “conceptual schedule, rough order of magnitude engineering cost estimate, and recommended contract vehicle” for the project to be developed.