NASA’s stated goal of sending the first woman ever, and the first man since the Apollo program to the Moon involves setting up a new space station that will orbit the Moon which is supposed to begin being built by the end of 2022 per current timelines. Today, the U.S. space agency issued an open call for industry feedback and insight on how American companies might help supply said station.
Like the ISS, the forthcoming ‘Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway (aka the LOP-G, but much more commonly simply referred to as ‘The Gateway’) will need regular resupply runs, and delivery of cargo – both for the many stages of its build, which are projected to span at least six years to get to its target state of completion. NASA is also considering the possibility that private companies could provide transportation for parts of its lunar landing and eventually, exploration and base building on the Moon.
NASA’s move today is to release a draft request for proposals, which means that at this stage, it’s not actually looking for providers to provide formal bids – this is the step before that happens, when it’s more informally looking for guidance from industry on what kinds of cargo delivery methods they might even be able to provide ahead of looking to lock in any official contract winners for ongoing business.
To dive deeper into what it’s after and field questions from industry, NASA is hosting a Q&A on June 26, and comments are due on July 10. The more formal actual RFP will happen later this summer, the agency expects, and ultimately, the contract award for this admittedly big job could be as high as $7 billion.
NASA previously awarded private official ‘Commercial Resupply Services’ for the ISS, which is a similar type of business but much closer to home, to SpaceX and Orbital Sciences, and then another round of CRS contracts more recently to Orbital ATK (the new, Northrop Grumman-owned entity which Orbital Sciences became), Sierra Nevada and SpaceX once again. It’s likely SpaceX will once again bid, as could Blue Origin, Northrup Gruman and Lockheed Martin to name a few.