Russia proposes Lunar Mission Support Module for Deep Space Gateway
The Russian political decision in the summer of 2017 to participate in the development of the NASA-led Deep Space Gateway, DSG, project, prompted engineers at RKK Energia to consider again possible Russian contributions to the project. One concept prepared for the Checkpoint Review meeting within the DSG project in October 2017 included a Lunar Mission Support Module.
The Russian concept of the Lunar Mission Support Module.
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Known specifications of the Lunar Mission Support Module:
The Lunar Mission Support Module, LMSM, would be attached to the Deep Space Gateway, DSG, in the lunar orbit to give the cis-lunar outpost extra capabilities in life-support, storage and berthing the spacecraft involved in the exploration of the lunar surface. The Russian concept clearly aims to address already known limitations in the current design of the DSG to handle the wide variety of missions considered within the project.
As envisioned in 2017, the 9-ton LMSM module consisted of two pressurized compartments derived from the Node Module, UM, and the Science and Power Module, NEM-1, developed at RKK Energia for the Russian Segment of the International Space Station, ISS.
The docking section of the module would have four ports for manned spacecraft, including Russia's new-generation PTK Federatsiya crew vehicle and the lunar lander. In case the lunar lander was designed to be reusable, it could be refueled while docked at the LMSM module from special tankers pumping propellant via transit lines of the node section. The module could also have a smaller port for robotic vehicles, such as an ascent stage of the sample return vehicle carrying soil from the lunar surface.
Perhaps the most controversial aspect of the proposal is the fact that the LMSM module would need NASA's SLS rocket to get to the lunar orbit. Only one SLS booster per year is expected to be available throughout the 2020s and every use of the costly vehicle for the expansion of the DSG complex would have to be weighed against the value of delivering a payload directly to the lunar surface. In fact, the entire DSG project is being criticized, particularly in Russia, as an unnecessary distraction on the road to the lunar surface.
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Internal design of the Russian-built Lunar Mission Support Module for the Deep Space Gateway as of October 2017. Credit: RKK Energia
Accommodation of the Lunar Mission Support Module, LMSM, under a payload fairing of NASA's SLS rocket also carrying the Orion spacecraft. Credit: RKK Energia
A position of the LMSM module in the architecture of the Deep Space Gateway. Credit: RKK Energia