1. What is happening?
Thales Alenia Space has partnered with 3 major U.S. companies, which are working on NASA studies of the concepts for the proposed Deep Space Gateway. Thales Alenia will leverage their knowledge and expertise in space stations and cargo module development.
On December 14, 2017, Thales Alenia announced that Boeing was the latest company they are working with as part of NASA’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships 2 (NextSTEP-2). Thales has also been working with Lockheed Martin and Orbital ATK.
2. Are any other companies involved?
The NextSTEP-2 program awarded Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Orbital, Bigelow Aerospace, NanoRacks and Sierra Nevada Corporation. The awards are public-private partnerships, with companies contributing their own funds in addition to NASA funding, which has a combined value of $65 million.
Most of the companies with NextSTEP-2 awards are working on concepts for habitation modules that could be used on missions beyond Earth orbit, such as the agency’s proposed Deep Space Gateway in cislunar space. The awards cover technology development as well as the construction of ground-based prototypes.
3. How will Thales Alenia contribute?
Thales Alenia Space is working with Orbital ATK trying to adapt the Cygnus spacecraft for deep space applications. Thales Alenia provides the pressurized cargo module for Cygnus cargo missions to the space station.
This is certainly the beginning of deep space habitation.