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Northrop Grumman awarded first crew module contract

The HALO module design is adapted from the Cygnus spacecraft designed by Northrop Grumman, and will serve as both crew habitat and docking hub for cislunar spacecraft.

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Artist illustration of Northrop Grumman’s HALO module and the Power Propulsion Element

Artist illustration of Northrop Grumman’s HALO module and the Power Propulsion Element which form the first critical component of NASA’s Gateway. Source | Northrop Grumman

Northrop Grumman Corp. (Falls Church, Ver., U.S.) reported on June 5 that it has been awarded a contract by NASA to execute the preliminary design and development of the Habitation and Logistics Outpost (HALO). HALO is to be deployed in lunar orbit as the first crew module of the NASA Lunar Gateway, an in-development mini-space station that will orbit the moon and serve as support for long-term human exploration. The system will include a solar-powered communication hub, science laboratory, short-term habitation module and holding area for rovers and other robots. The award is a follow-on to the Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships 2 (NextSTEP-2) Appendix A contract, which will be modified to represent the HALO module project.

The HALO design is derived from Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus spacecraft, a human-capable vehicle that delivers supplies, spare equipment and scientific experiments to the International Space Station (ISS), with 13 successful missions to date. The module represents an important component of the Lunar Gateway, serving as a crew habitat and docking hub for cislunar spacecraft. HALO will feature three docking ports for visiting spacecraft, including the Orion spacecraft and other lunar support vehicles.

Building off of Cygnus’ pressurized cargo module, Northrop Grumman reports adding command and control capabilities, including environmental control and life support systems to HALO. Coupled with NASA’s Orion spacecraft capabilities, the company says, the systems can sustain up to four astronauts for up to 30 days as they embark on, and return from, expeditions to the lunar surface. By leveraging the active Cygnus production line, Northrop Grumman believes it has the capability of providing an affordable and reliable HALO module in time to support NASA’s Artemis program.

“The success of our Cygnus spacecraft and its active production line helps to enable Northrop Grumman to deliver the HALO module,” says Steve Krein, Northrop Grumman’s vice president of civil and commercial satellites. “HALO is an essential element in NASA’s long-term exploration of deep-space.”