US weapons developer Northrop Grumman has won a Nasa contract worth nearly US$1 billion to develop living quarters for the US space agency’s planned outpost in lunar orbit.
Astronauts will live and conduct research in the Habitation And Logistics Outpost (HALO) made by Northrop for the lunar Gateway – a vital component of Nasa’s Artemis moon programme, reports Reuters.
The Artemis programme is a US-led international human spaceflight programme. It was launched in 2017 under the Trump administration with the primary goal of returning humans to the moon, specifically the lunar south pole, in the mid-2020s.
Nasa is targeting a November 2024 launch for the integrated spacecraft on a SpaceX rocket.
China is also planning to set up a base at the south pole of the moon, and intends to deploy robotic expeditions to asteroids and Jupiter from there around 2030.
Nasa and its commercial and international partners are planning the lunar Gateway to support science investigations and enable surface landings on the moon, the agency said in a statement.
Northrop Grumman will be responsible for attaching and testing the integrated quarters with a solar propulsion module being developed.
Eight countries have signed the international pact for moon exploration as part of Nasa’s Artemis programme as the US space agency tries to shape standards for building long-term settlements on the lunar surface.
Australia, Canada, Japan, Luxembourg, Italy, the United Arab Emirates and the UK have signed up to the accords with the US.
Nasa has said that: “Fundamentally, the accords are about avoiding conflict, about transparency, public registration, and deconflicting activities.
“These are the principles that will preserve peace in space.”