NASA plans to award the first contract for the Lunar Orbital Platform Gateway program in early 2019, Bloomberg reported Friday.
The Gateway program is designed to serve as the space agency's “staging“ platform for studies of the deep space environment and the moon as well as a future station for astronauts involved in Mars missions.
William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for human exploration and operations at NASA, said the initial contract to be awarded will cover the development of power and propulsion components for the proposed Gateway, followed by the production of habitation elements for the platform.
Gerstenmaier said at the Space Symposium that NASA expects the Gateway platform to start its lunar orbit mission by 2025 with four astronauts on one-month missions.
The agency will use the Lockheed Martin-built Orion spacecraft and service module from European Space Agency to facilitate trips to the planned gateway.
NASA awarded five companies $2.4 million in combined funds in November 2017 to perform studies on power and propulsion platforms that will be used to build a solar electric propulsion system intended for deep space missions.