Boeing's lunar gateway demonstrator. Photo: Boeing
Boeing wants to take lessons learned from the International Space Station (ISS) to meet NASA's ambitious 2024 deadline to get humans back to the moon.
Driving the news: The longtime NASA contractor just finished up construction of a full-scale, ground-based model of its prototype for the space agency's lunar gateway. NASA will now start running the prototype through a series of tests.
- The model — located in Huntsville, Alabama — includes habitation and airlock modules based on Boeing's work developing the ISS.
- "We have a lot of cool stuff in there," David Pederson, Boeing's test team lead engineer for the gateway, said during a press briefing last week.
- The demonstrator includes an exercise area with a window, a galley with working water and science experiment boxes.
Details: NASA hopes to launch a lunar gateway as an orbiting base of operations from which astronauts could launch to the lunar surface.
- Boeing is confident its gateway concept, if selected, would be ready to launch ahead of a 2024 landing.
- According to Boeing, the modules are designed to launch separately, with the power and propulsion module heading to lunar orbit in 2022.
- The habitation module would launch one year later.
- The modules are designed to snap together with little assembly required.
But, but, but: Boeing isn't the only company working on a lunar gateway concept.
- Lockheed Martin has finished its demonstrator. Northrop Grumman, Sierra Nevada Corp. and Bigelow Aerospace are still working toward turning their models over to NASA for testing.
- As of March, the space agency says it plans to incorporate the best elements of the demonstrators into the final product, rather than going with one design.
Be smart: NASA's 2024 deadline is extremely ambitious and will likely take a large influx of funding provided by Congress. However, it's unclear whether the Trump administration has enough support to make that lunar mission a reality.
- The agency was expected to submit its updated budget proposal in mid-April, but that deadline came and went with no word on how much NASA will need to get the job done.
- In theory, NASA could still aim for the moon without including a gateway in its plans.
Go deeper: All eyes on NASA's commercial crew