The pressurised living quarters module for the Artemis programme will be delivered in 2024

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Illustration of the HALO module, one of the elements of NASA’s Gateway. (Credit: NASA)

NASA has finalised a $935m contract with Northrop Grumman for developing the habitation and logistics outpost module (HALO module) for Gateway, a key component of the Artemis human spaceflight programme.

Under the contract, the Virginia-based aerospace and defense technology company will be responsible for completing the design and development activity of the module, that is currently in progress.

Northrop Grumman will also handle the integration of the HALO module with the Power and Propulsion Element (PPE), which is being built by Maxar Technologies.

Additionally, the company will handle the integrated PPE and HALO spacecraft turnover and launch preparation with Elon Musk’s SpaceX. Besides, Northrop Grumman will support activation and checkout of the HALO module during the flight to lunar orbit.

NASA is aiming to launch the integrated spacecraft on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket in November 2024 as part of the Artemis programme.

NASA administrator Bill Nelson said: “NASA is building the infrastructure to expand human exploration further out into the solar system than ever before, including Gateway, the lunar space station that will help us make inspirational scientific discoveries at and around the Moon.

“Just as importantly, these investments will help NASA carry out the United States’ horizon goal: to further develop and test the technology and science needed for a human trip to Mars.

“The HALO is a critical component of Gateway, and this exciting announcement today brings us one step closer to landing American boots on both the Moon and Mars.”

The Gateway will be a multi-purpose outpost that will orbit the Moon. It will give the necessary support for sustainable, long-term human return to the lunar surface and function as a staging point for deep space exploration.

The HALO module will be the living space for astronauts where they will also carry out research while visiting the Gateway outpost.

The pressurised living quarters will provide command and control systems for Gateway, and also docking ports for visiting spacecraft like NASA’s Orion spacecraft, logistics resupply craft, and lunar landers.

Northrop Grumman said that it will work towards a critical design review in the spring of 2022 and deliver HALO to the launch site in 2024.

Northrop Grumman civil and commercial satellites vice president Steve Krein said: “By leveraging our active Cygnus production line, Northrop Grumman can uniquely provide an affordable and reliable HALO module, in the timeframe needed to support NASA’s Artemis programme.

“Our team looks forward to continuing our collaboration with NASA in order to overcome the technical challenges associated with the harsh radiation and thermal environment of lunar space, as well as the unique challenge of hosting visiting crews for extended durations in this environment.”