NASA Needs Help Shipping Cargo to Its Future Lunar Space Station

Gateway art
An artist's depiction of the Gateway, a proposed lunar space station, under construction. (Image credit: NASA)

NASA is asking for help making shipments to a future lunar space station 240,000 miles (almost 400,000 kilometers) away. The agency opened a solicitation this week asking companies to consider what they'd need to deliver cargo; United States firms have until Nov. 2 to provide their input.

The agency is designing its Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway, a space station that is expected to orbit the moon and host astronauts beginning sometime in the mid-2020s. But the design work is starting now, to make sure the agency is ready and commercial partners are available.

Right now, NASA is looking for companies that would be interested in carrying both pressurized and unpressurized cargo, just like SpaceX's Dragon does for cargo missions to the International Space Station. NASA said it anticipates purchasing at least three cargo delivery missions; the first, tentatively scheduled for 2024, would likely include "a robotic arm provided by an international partner," the agency said in a statement. [Look Inside Lockheed Martin's Proposed Lunar Gateway Habitat]

NASA isn't ready to actually hire a contractor yet, as the agency is just looking for more information about who might be interested and what factors would influence its willingness and pricing, hence the short turnaround for this request.

The Gateway will still be under construction during the first two cargo missions, which means NASA is looking for a module that could pull double-duty: Once each module is docked to the station, it would serve as a handy storage space and eventually as a trash receptacle. NASA is also looking for cargo vessels that could launch both on commercial rockets, for the first two deliveries, and on its own huge moon rocket under construction, the Space Launch System — which will be tested in 2020 with a round-the-moon trip.

"As the agency moves humans deeper into the solar system with its partners, a spaceship in lunar orbit is necessary to achieve the ambitious exploration goals set forth by President Donald Trump and to prepare humanity for missions to the moon and Mars," NASA added in the same statement.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: