NASA Tasks Northrop Grumman to build Habitation Module for Lunar Gateway
Artemis is a fast moving project, and NASA has made it clear they will be acquiring capabilities from industry in as smart a way possible. This includes many streamlined approaches to procurement and ways to leverage smaller firms.
But getting to the Moon will also require help from the large firms who have resources and talent to build and maintain platforms which can operate in the harsh extremes of space. One of these great firms is Northrop Grumman, who has just won a task to build a key part of the new lunar gateway. They will be building a “minimal habitation module” which will serve as a brief waypoint for astronauts. It is a bit like an RV in space (making Mel Brooks seem very prescient right now).
“NGIS [Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems, formerly Orbital ATK] was the only NextSTEP-2 contractor with a module design and the production and tooling resources capable of meeting the 2024 deadline,” NASA said.
For that reason, NASA is going with a sole-source process to award the contract for the habitation module, short-circuiting the full and open NextSTEP-2 Appendix A competition. As long as Northrop Grumman submits an acceptable proposal with a price tag that’s “fair and reasonable,” NASA will give its go-ahead.
In documents submitted during earlier phases of the competition, Northrop Grumman proposed outfitting a variant of its Cygnus cargo carrier for habitation purposes.
Among the advantages: The Cygnus has been in use for space station resupply since 2013, so there’s already production capability; Northrop Grumman has already done the design work for upgrades including new docking ports and radiators; and the module is well-suited to fit inside the fairings of commercial launch vehicles.
Congrats to the team at Northrop Grumman.
For tech firms seeking more insights on what it is like to work with firms like Northrop, see the OODA special series for the Startup Tech CEO including our report on How do you work with federal systems integrators.