NASA picks SpaceX to launch Gateway's HALO and PPE elements

NASA has announced that SpaceX will use its Falcon Heavy rocket to launch its Habitation and Logistics Outpost (HALO) and Power and Propulsion Element (PPE), two 'foundational' parts of the future Gateway station. The two components will be integrated with each other before launching, the date for which will be 'no earlier' than May 2024.

Gateway is NASA's ambitious future outpost intended to orbit the Moon where it will serve as a long-term way station for humans on lunar missions and, in the more distant future, deep space exploration. The outpost remains the key aspect of the Artemis mission, which plans to return astronauts to the Moon, among other things.

The HALO element of Gateway will be a pressurized living quarters for astronauts to live in during their time at the outpost — in most cases, NASA notes, as a stop on their way to the Moon for future missions. This component will be the docking hub for the station as well as functioning as its command and control center.

This aspect will play a big role in the Gateway outpost, working to distribute the power, facilitate communications for Moon missions and visiting spacecraft, as well as supporting various scientific investigations. Integrated with HALO will be the PPE element, which is a 60kW-class solar electric propulsion spacecraft.

This element will deliver power and altitude control in addition to providing communications capabilities. PPE will also be tasked with physically moving the Gateway outpost into other orbits around the Moon, depending on need, offering unprecedented access to the lunar surface.

When it's time to launch the integrated elements, NASA says they'll be delivered into space on SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket from the Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center.