Europe has been working hard on their new Ariane 6 launcher, which will cover a wide range of commercial and institutional uses, while simultaneously slashing the cost of launches compared to Ariane 5.

2018 has seen a lot of work on the development of Ariane 6, plants are manufacturing new parts using innovative methods, they have tested all engines, and the building of launch facilities is well underway.

Prime contractor ArianeGroup is made up of 600 companies in 13 European countries and includes 350 small- and medium-sized enterprises. They have joined forces with the European Space Agency (ESA) to tweak the design and begin production. In the meantime, CNES France’s space agency has been getting their launch facilities ready at Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana.

Meanwhile, at their Cape Canaveral, Florida-based facility, Lockheed Martin has developed a lunar habitat prototype for NASA’s lunar Gateway, which is scheduled to launch by 2024, according to the Denver Business Journal. 

In the fall of 2019, NASA intends to award a contract to build the Gateway platform, which will function as a command center or outpost for astronauts to perform robotic lunar missions from the moon’s orbit.

Talking about the lunar Gateway habitat, Rob Chambers, executive in charge of strategy and business development for human spaceflight at Lockheed’s space business, said that rather than seeing it as a destination, it should be thought of like an airport.

Chambers added that in some ways, the Gateway is an extension of Orion that sits at the moon where we go and dock to it.

In other news, although The BepiColombo mission to Mercury that launched on Oct. 19 has a seven-year journey ahead of it, the spacecraft has already accomplished a key milestone.

On December 2nd, the spacecraft made its first maneuver using two of its ion thrusters, a procedure that followed weeks of meticulous testing. Since the procedure was a success, it means that the most powerful electric-propulsion engine system in history is now up and running.

In a statement released by ESA, Elsa Montagnon, Spacecraft Operations Manager for BepiColombo, said that electric propulsion technology is very new and extremely delicate, meaning that BepiColombo's four thrusters had to be thoroughly checked after the launch, by slowly turning each on, one by one, and closely monitoring their functioning and effect on the spacecraft.

What do you think about the Lunar Gateway? Is it better to have a gateway or a lunar base? Why?

Let us know in the comments below!