Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway

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Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway
Orion visiting Deep Space Gateway.jpg
Station statistics
Crew 4 (proposed)
Carrier rocket Space Launch System
Commercial vehicle
Proton-M (supposed to be extinct)
Launch pad 39B (tentative)

The Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway (LOP-G) is a planned lunar-orbit space station, that will have a power and propulsion system, a small habitat for the crew, a docking capability, an airlock, and logistics modules.

The development is led by the International Space Station partners: ESA, NASA, Roscosmos, JAXA and CSA for construction in the 2020s.[1][2][3] Formerly known as the Deep Space Gateway, the station was renamed in NASA's proposal for the 2019 United States federal budget.[4][5]

The station would be used as a staging point for lunar exploration and as a staging station for the proposed Deep Space Transport, which is a concept of a reusable vehicle that uses electric and chemical propulsion and would be specifically designed for crewed missions to destinations such as Mars.[1][6] If funded, the Gateway will be developed, serviced, and utilized in collaboration with commercial and international partners for use as a staging ground for robotic and crewed lunar surface missions and for travel to Mars.


Originally, NASA had intended to build the Gateway as part of the now cancelled Asteroid Redirect Mission.[7][8] An informal joint statement on cooperation between NASA and Roscosmos was announced on 27 September 2017.[3] Traveling to and from cislunar space (lunar orbit) will help gain the knowledge and experience necessary to venture beyond the Moon and into deep space. The LOP-G would be initially placed in a near-rectilinear halo orbit (NRHO) around the Moon.[9] The Gateway could also support in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) development and testing from lunar and asteroid resources.[10] The Gateway would offer the opportunity for gradual buildup of capabilities for more complex missions over time.[11] If funded, its various components are to be launched on a commercial launch vehicle and on the Space Launch System as Orion co-manifested payloads on the flights EM-3 through EM-8.[9] According to Roscosmos, they may also use Proton-M and Angara-A5M heavy launchers to fly payloads or crew.[3]

The Power and Propulsion Element (PPE) for the LOP-G will have a mass of 8-9 t and be capable of generating 50 kW[8] of solar electric power for its ion thrusters system for maneuverability, which can be supported by chemical propulsion.[12] NASA stated that the most likely ion engine to be used on the PPE is the 14 kW Hall thruster called Advanced Electric Propulsion System (AEPS) still being developed by Glenn Research Center, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Aerojet Rocketdyne.[13] Four identical AEPS engines would consume the 50 kW generated.[13]

Patrick Troutman serves as the lead for strategic assessments for the Deep Space Transport and the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway.[14]


On 1 November 2017, NASA commissioned 5 studies lasting four months into affordable ways to develop the Power and Propulsion Element (PPE), hopefully leveraging private companies' plans. These studies had a combined budget of $2.4 million. The companies performing the PPE studies are Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Orbital ATK, Sierra Nevada and Space Systems/Loral.[15][8] These awards are in addition of the ongoing set of NextSTEP-2 awards made in 2016 to study development and make ground prototypes of habitat modules that could be used on the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway as well as other commercial applications,[6] so the LOP-G is likely to incorporate components developed under NextSTEP as well.[8][16]


The early concept for the LOP-G is still evolving, and includes at least the following component modules:[17]

Proposed timeline[edit]

Year Vehicle assembly objective Mission name Launch vehicle Human/robotic elements
2022 Start of the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway assembly by launching the Power and Propulsion Element (PPE)[23] TBD Commercial launch vehicle[24] Uncrewed
2024 Deep Space Habitat module launch and mating to PPE in cislunar space[25] EM-3 Space Launch System, Block 1B Crewed
2025 Habitat and logistics resupply[26] EM-4 Space Launch System, Block 1B Crewed
2026 Orion capsule (crew 4) delivers the airlock module to the Gateway EM-5 Space Launch System, Block 1B Crewed
2027 Deep Space Transport (DST) to the Lunar Gateway[27] EM-6 Space Launch System, Block 1B Uncrewed
2027 DST checkout mission[27] EM-7 Space Launch System, Block 1B Crewed
2028 DST Cargo logistics and refuelling[27] EM-8 Space Launch System, Block 1B Uncrewed
2029 DST one year cruise test (shakedown cruise) in cislunar space[27] EM-9 Space Launch System Crewed
2030 Cargo DST logistics and refuelling mission[27] EM-10 Space Launch System Uncrewed
2033 DST cruise for injection into Mars orbit[27] EM-11 Space Launch System Crewed


The Deep Space Gateway has received numerous criticisms from several space professionals for lacking a proper scientific goal. Former NASA Astronaut Terry Virts, who was a pilot of STS-130 aboard Space Shuttle Endeavour and Commander of the International Space Station on Expedition 43 wrote in an Op-ed on Ars Technica that the Deep Space Gateway would "shackle human exploration, not enable it". Terry stated that there is no concrete space human spaceflight goal with the Deep Space Gateway and that he cannot envision a new technology that would be developed or validated by building another modular space station. Terry further criticized NASA for abandoning its safety dictum of separating the crew from the cargo which was put in place following the Space Shuttle Columbia accident in 2003.[28]

Mars Society founder Robert Zubrin, who has been one of the staunchest advocates for a human mission to Mars, went even further and called the Deep Space Gateway "NASA's worst plan yet" in an article on the National Review. Robert went on to say "We do not need a lunar-orbiting station to go to the Moon. We do not need such a station to go to Mars. We do not need it to go to near-Earth asteroids. We do not need it to go anywhere. Nor can we accomplish anything in such a station that we cannot do in the Earth-orbiting International Space Station" and that "there is nothing at all in lunar orbit: nothing to use, nothing to explore, nothing to do". Robert also stated that "If the goal is to build a Moon base, it should be built on the surface of the Moon. That is where the science is, that is where the shielding material is, and that is where the resources to make propellant and other useful things are to be found."[29]

Retired aerospace engineer Gerald Black stated that the "LOP-G is useless for supporting human return to the lunar surface and a lunar base." He added that it is not even planned to be used as a rocket fuel depot and that stopping at LOP-G on the way to or from the Moon would serve no useful purpose and it would actually waste rocket fuel.[30]

Pei Zhaoyu, deputy director of the Lunar Exploration and Space Program Center of the China National Space Administration, concludes that, from a cost-benefit standpoint, the gateway would have "lost cost-effectiveness."[31] Pei said the Chinese plan to focus on a research station on the surface.[32]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Kathryn Hambleton. "Deep Space Gateway to Open Opportunities for Distant Destinations". NASA. Retrieved April 5, 2017. 
  3. ^ a b c Weitering, Hanneke (27 September 2017). "NASA and Russia Partner Up for Crewed Deep-Space Missions". Retrieved 2017-11-05. 
  4. ^ Davis, Jason (February 26, 2018). "Some snark (and details!) about NASA's proposed lunar space station". The Planetary Society. Archived from the original on February 26, 2018. Retrieved February 26, 2018. 
  5. ^ Yuhas, Alan (2018-02-12). "Trump's Nasa budget: flying 'Jetson cars' and a return to the moon". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-02-25. 
  6. ^ a b Robyn Gatens, Jason Crusan. "Cislunar Habitation & Environmental Control & Life Support System" (PDF). NASA. Retrieved March 31, 2017. 
  7. ^ NASA Seeks Information on Developing Deep Space Gateway Module. Jeff Foust, Space. 29 July 2017.
  8. ^ a b c d NASA issues study contracts for Deep Space Gateway element. Jeff Foust, Space News. 3 November 2017.
  9. ^ a b Godwin, Curt (April 1, 2017). "NASA's human spaceflight plans come into focus with announcement of Deep Space Gateway". Spaceflight Insider. Retrieved 2017-04-02. 
  10. ^ Research Possibilities Beyond Deep Space Gateway. David Smitherman, Debra Needham, Ruthan Lewis. NASA. February 28, 2018.
  11. ^ Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate - Architecture Status. (PDF) Jim Free. NASA. 28 March 2017.
  12. ^ a b c d Chris Gebhardt. "NASA finally sets goals, missions for SLS – eyes multi-step plan to Mars". NASA Spaceflight. Retrieved April 9, 2017. 
  13. ^ a b Overview of the Development and Mission Application of the Advanced Electric Propulsion System (AEPS). (PDF). Daniel A. Herman, Todd A. Tofil, Walter Santiago, Hani Kamhawi, James E. Polk, John S. Snyder, Richard R. Hofer, Frank Q. Picha, Jerry Jackson and May Allen. NASA; NASA/TM—2018-219761. 35th International Electric Propulsion Conference. Atlanta, Georgia, October 8–12, 2017. Accessed: 27 July 2018.
  14. ^ NASA Langley Talk to Highlight Sending Humans to the Deep Space Gateway. April 25, 2018.
  15. ^ Jimi Russell. "NASA Selects Studies for Gateway Power and Propulsion Element". NASA.GOV. Retrieved November 2, 2017. 
  16. ^ Erin Mahoney. "NextSTEP Partners Develop Ground Prototypes to Expand our Knowledge of Deep Space Habitats". NASA.GOV. NASA. Retrieved November 6, 2017. 
  17. ^ Cursan, Jason (March 27, 2018). "Future Human Exploration Planning:Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway and Science Workshop Findings" (PDF). Retrieved April 13, 2018. 
  18. ^ "NASA FY 2019 Budget Overview" (PDF).  Quote: "Supports launch of the Power and PropulsionElement on a commercial launch vehicle as the first component of the LOP - Gateway, (page 14)
  19. ^ NASA considers acquiring more than one gateway propulsion module. Joe Faust, Space News. 30 March 2018.
  20. ^ NASA evaluates EM-2 launch options for Deep Space Gateway PPE. Philip Sloss, NASA Spaceflight. December 4, 2017.
  21. ^ "Canadian Space Agency to build robotic arms for lunar space station". Global News. Retrieved 2017-09-29. 
  22. ^
  23. ^ Daines, Gary (December 1, 2016). "Crew Will Mark Important Step on Journey to Mars". Retrieved 2 January 2018. 
  24. ^ "NASA FY 2019 Budget Overview" (PDF).  Quote: "Supports launch of the Power and PropulsionElement on a commercial launch vehicle as the first component of the LOP - Gateway, (page 14)
  25. ^ Foust, Jeff (10 March 2017). "NASA moving ahead with plans for cislunar human outpost". SpaceNews. Pocket Ventures, LLC. Archived from the original on 11 March 2017. Retrieved 11 March 2017. 
  26. ^ Gebhardt, Chris (April 6, 2017). "NASA finally sets goals, missions for SLS – eyes multi-step plan to Mars". Retrieved August 21, 2017. 
  27. ^ a b c d e f Finally, some details about how NASA actually plans to get to Mars. Eric Berger, ARS Technica. 28 March 2017.
  28. ^ "Op-ed: The Deep Space Gateway would shackle human exploration, not enable it". Ars Technica. Retrieved May 20, 2018. 
  29. ^ "NASA's Worst Plan Yet". National Review. Retrieved May 20, 2018. 
  30. ^ The Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway: an unneeded and costly diversion. Gerald Black, The Space Review. 14 May 2018.
  31. ^ Berger, Eric. "Chinese space official seems unimpressed with NASA's lunar gateway". Ars Technica. Retrieved 17 July 2018. 
  32. ^ Kapoglou, Angeliki. "". Twitter. Retrieved 17 July 2018. 

External links[edit]