A guided tour of Gateway, the futuristic space station orbiting the Moon

A guided tour of Gateway, the futuristic space station orbiting the Moon

Although the Artemis program is experiencing delays, with the first crewed flight of Artemis 2 postponed to September 2025 and the return of astronauts to the Moon with the Artemis 3 spacecraft postponed to September 2026, construction of the Gateway space station continues. The Gateway Project receives no less media coverage than the Artemis missions, and is no less important to the human presence around the Moon, and subsequent manned missions to other planets.

NASA invites us to discover the Gateway Station thanks to a computer-generated video showing the station from the outside. We discover the different elements that will make up the ship and that will evolve in a specific polar orbit.

The European Space Agency was largely involved in building the portal

There is a Power and Propulsion Element (PPE) module that will use solar energy to power the space station's subsystems and ionize xenon gas to produce the thrust that will keep the station in orbit away from the Moon. This item was created by Northrop Grumman and Maxar Technologies. Ditto for HALO (Habitat and Logistics Outpost), one of four modules where astronauts will live, conduct scientific activities and prepare for missions on the lunar surface. Currently under construction, it is 7.5 meters long and 3 meters in diameter. The first two PPE and HALO modules will launch together on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket no later than 2025. It will take a year to reach the Moon.

The Lunar I-Hab module, provided by ESA with a contribution from the Japan Aerospace Agency (JAXA), will contain environmental control and life support systems, dormitories and a kitchen. This module will reach orbit in 2028 (at the earliest) with the Artemis IV mission. A manned Orion capsule will transport the Lunar I-Hab to the Gateway and connect it to HALO. This will be the first time that astronauts enter the space station. In its initial configuration, the Gateway will accommodate four passengers.

Image source: © Thales Alenia Space Technicians from Thales Alenia Space in Turin, Italy, guide Gateway's HALO module to its stress testing site.

Thales Alenia Space manufactures Gateway's core communications module

We continue the virtual tour with the Lunar View Module (Esa), which will be equipped with EPP refueling capabilities, cargo storage space and large openings that will provide a stunning view of the lunar surface. ESA also contributes to Lunar View and Lunar Link. The latter is an independent communications element equipped with its own computers, radios and antennas. It will provide communications services between the Gateway and lunar rovers, landers, and satellites on and around the Moon. Its construction began in France with Thales Alenia Space.

Image source: © Thales Alenia Space The Lunar Link module designed by Thales Alenia Space recently passed a vibration test to verify that it will withstand the strong vibration that will occur during launch.

The Crew and Science Airlock, provided by the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center in the United Arab Emirates, is an airlock that will be used for extravehicular spacewalks for the crew and equipment. These two modules will be transported to the Moon by the Orion capsule.

The Gateway station will be equipped with a Canadarm3 robotic arm provided by the Canadian Space Agency.

The gate is designed to last “at least” 15 years

The video also shows us several ships anchored at the gate. Deep Space Logistics, which will transport cargo for the Artemis missions. The Orion capsule will transport astronauts from Earth to the space station and ensure their return to Earth. As for the return flights between the Gateway and the lunar surface, they will be provided by the Human Landing System (HLS), a transportation system that NASA has entrusted the development of to SpaceX (Starship HLS) and Blue Origin (Blue Moon HLS).

NASA says assembling the gateway will require four rockets to be launched and will take about six years. When completed, it will be about 1/5 the size of the International Space Station by volume and 1/6 by mass. The gate is 43 meters high, 19 meters wide, and 20 meters long. The habitable volume will be about 125 cubic metres.

The portal is designed for a minimum age of 15 years. As with the International Space Station, its use can undoubtedly extend beyond this initial period.

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