Bremen, September 28, 2018. Over the many years in which it has been operating in low earth orbit, the International Space Station ISS has provided valuable new insight for human spaceflight, thus paving the way for ambitious missions. Now, the ISS partners Europe, USA, Russia, Japan and Canada are casting their eyes to the future and currently planning the next major milestone in human spaceflight, namely a lunar orbital base for crewed missions to the moon or Mars. The working title is currently “Lunar Orbital Platform Gateway” or simply “Gateway”.
OHB System AG, a subsidiary of the European space and technology group OHB SE, has been selected to participate in one of two parallel studies concerning the planning of a European module going by the evocative name ESPRIT (European System Providing Refueling, Infrastructure and Telecommunications). OHB will be handling key development tasks in a contract worth EUR 1.7 million as a subcontractor for French aerospace group Thales Alenia Space. ESPRIT is being executed on behalf of the European Space Agency ESA in a project worth a total of EUR 5 million in the first development phase (A/B1).
Via ESPRIT, OHB will be involved in an international partnership for the development of the new Gateway, which will be positioned in a high elliptical polar orbit around the moon. On this orbit, the distance between the base and the surface of the moon will range from approximately 1,500 to 70,000 km. The Gateway will require roughly six days to complete one full orbit.
“The Gateway marks the next major step in manned space flight and will substantially broaden what is feasible for humankind. OHB will be contributing a large share to the technically demanding definition of the European elements,” explains Mathias Rohrbeck, lead system engineer at OHB System AG for ESPRIT.
OHB will be responsible for design work on the structure of the module, the thermal system and the xenon-refueling system. “Simply put, the structure is the shell that envelops the ESPRIT module. The thermal system controls the waste heat and the refueling entails the supply of the noble gas xenon which is needed for the ion thrusters of the Gateway", adds Dr. Matthias Boehme, ESPRIT project manager at OHB System AG.
The European ESPRIT module will be handling further important functions such as the science airlock for exterior experiments on board the Gateway. Refueling will also be possible with hydrazine fuel. In addition, ESPRIT will permit telecommunications with radio assets on the lunar surface. In addition to the ESPRIT module, the Gateway is expected to have a further six modules. These modules will be developed by European, US, Japanese, Russian and Canadian partners and placed in lunar orbit one after the other mostly using the new US Space Launch System (SLS). Astronauts will then be able to travel with the Orion spacecraft, which is also under development, first to the gateway and from there to the lunar surface. In the long term, the gateway will also be used to travel to Mars and planets even further away.