- Press Release
- August 16, 2022
Bridenstine Hits The Ground Running On Gateway
NASA Gateway Program Justification For Other Than Full and Open Competition For The Minimal Habitation Module
“NASA’s decision, based on review of each NextSTEP-2 contractor’s capabilities, to sole source the procurement of the MHM flight unit for the cislunar Gateway to Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems (NGIS) as a follow-on to the originally competitively awarded NextSTEP-2 BAA Appendix A, Habitat Systems studies, Contract NNH15CN76C (See below). … In order to support the mandate to enable a human landing capability in 2024, the MHM must be launched in late 2023 to be delivered to Gateway no later than early 2024. The schedule constraints established by a December 2023 launch dictate that a module be on dock at Kennedy Space Center in mid-2023 for launch processing and integration. Per NASA’s schedule analysis, this typical timeline for module production must already be compressed in order to achieve the 2024 human lunar landing deadline. Given that the NextSTEP-2 contractors advanced designs to a near System Design Review (SDR) fidelity, NASA determined that it must utilize the existing concepts from the NextSTEP-2 Appendix A and use the development done to date to minimize the additional design work necessary to produce a module in time.”
Keith’s note: NASA has been directed by Vice President Pence to truncate NASA’s original plans to land people on the Moon in 2028 to a new date of 2024. That means NASA is going to have to make a number of prompt decisions on some basic aspects of how it accomplishes this 2024 goal. This NASA document makes mention of the fact that NASA is having to compress its procedures in order to meet the deadline set by Vice President Pence. NASA has decided that the only viable solution for a habitation module for the Gateway is to utilize a modified version of Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus cargo spacecraft. This spacecraft (originally developed by Orbital Sciences which was bought by Northrop Grumman) has performed flawlessly each time it has flown, so it is a known, proven design. While it would not be surprising that other companies will protest this sole source decision by NASA, it is hard to argue that other companies could have been able to provide hardware on the dock at KSC when NASA needs it to be there.
The only thing that is missing from this document is the cost of this module which is redacted on page 5 of the original notice posted by NASA. Given the mysterious and ever-changing estimates of how much it will take NASA to meet the 2024 goal it is hard to imagine that this number will remain a secret. Indeed, just last week NASA Administrator Bridenstine openly admitted in congressional testimony that NASA has a chronic problem when it comes to estimating costs and then delivering on them.
Meeting the 2024 lunar landing date is going to be sporty – at a minimum. To his credit Jim Bridenstine has hit the ground running. Gateway has been downsized to a basic initial configuration. Maxar has the propulsion portion of the Gateway and Northrop Grumman now has the initial habitation portion. Orion and its service module exists and SLS is being fabricated albeit behind schedule. Moreover commercial launchers from SpaceX and ULA are ready for procurement to launch components. All that seems to be missing now is a lunar lander. NASA has a long way to go. Many people think that the landing could be done in a simpler fashion. But again, given the lead time Bridenstine has been given he has certainly risen to the challenge. It will be interesting to see who is picked to run HEOMD given that Bridenstine has said that some important decisions are on hold pending those appointments.