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Boeing's Deep Space Gateway
An artist’s conception from Boeing shows its Deep Space Gateway. (Boeing Illustration)

The space station band is getting back together again: Russia and NASA today signed a joint statement voicing support for a Deep Space Gateway in lunar orbit that’s designed to serve as a jumping-off point for beyond-Earth exploration.

To be fair, that’s what they once said about the International Space Station as well. But NASA envisions the gateway as taking advantage of other technologies more suited to deep-space exploration, including its Orion capsule and heavy-lift Space Launch System.

The current plan calls for the Earth-orbiting space station to wind down in the 2020s, at the same time that the SLS is delivering the first components of the Deep Space Gateway to a region between Earth and the moon known as cislunar space.

NASA is working on concept studies for the DSG space station with six commercial partners in its NextSTEP-2 program — Bigelow Aerospace, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Orbital ATK, Sierra Nevada Corp. and Nanoracks.

“While the deep space gateway is still in concept formulation, NASA is pleased to see growing international interest in moving into cislunar space as the next step for advancing human space exploration,” Robert Lightfoot, NASA’s acting administrator, said in a news release. “Statements such as this one signed with Roscosmos show the gateway concept as an enabler to the kind of exploration architecture that is affordable and sustainable.”

The joint statement was signed by representatives of NASA and Roscosmos, Russia’s space agency, at the International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide, Australia.

Russia’s Tass news service quoted Russian space chief Igor Komarov as saying that his country may provide as many as three of the Deep Space Gateway’s modules — and that other countries in the so-called BRICS economic group, including China and India, could take part in the project.

Current law bars NASA from bilateral space cooperation with China.

The Deep Space Gateway and its role in the push onward to Mars has been one of the big topics at this year’s IAC meeting. Lockheed Martin and SpaceX founder Elon Musk are due to update their proposals for sending crews to Mars in the 2020s on the conference’s final day.

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