NASA picks Maxar to build lunar outpost piece

Source: Xinhua| 2019-05-24 04:41:21|Editor: yan
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WASHINGTON, May 23 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. space agency NASA has selected Maxar Technologies as the first of its commercial partner to build a lunar outpost that will transfer astronauts to lunar surface in 2024.

NASA's administrator Jim Bridenstine announced the decision on Thursday in a speech at Florida Institute of Technology, and outlined how NASA plans to land humans on the moon in a program called Artemis.

Maxar is tasked with building the power and propulsion element (PPE) of the lunar outpost Gateway, a small space station orbiting the Moon, which serves as a staging facility for future human exploration of the moon.

Maxar Technologies Inc. is a Colorado-based company specializing in manufacturing communication, earth observation, radar, and on-orbit servicing satellites. The company also created a robotic arm on the International Space Station.

PPE will be a high-power, 50-kilowatt solar electric propulsion unit to provide electricity for the Gateway and communications between the station and Earth, according to NASA.

"This system requires much less propellant than traditional chemical systems, which will allow the Gateway to move more mass around the Moon, like a human landing system and large modules for living and working in orbit," said Mike Barrett, PPE project manager at NASA, in a statement.

NASA is targeting launch of the power and propulsion element on a commercial rocket in late 2022.

Bridenstine said NASA would launch humans to the Gateway on the heavy-lift rocket SLS and spacecraft Orion developed by NASA to the Gateway, and then a commercially-made lunar lander docked with the Gateway will bring astronauts to lunar surface in 2024.

NASA had selected 11 private companies on May 16 to conduct studies and produce prototypes of human landers for its lunar exploration program.