The European Space Agency (ESA) has selected Airbus to carry out two studies for the development of a possible hub for human missions.

Nasa, Roscosmos, Canadian Space Agency (CSA), Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and ESA are currently involved in the creation of the lunar base known as Gateway, formerly called Deep Space Gateway (DSG) or Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway (LOP-G).

As part of the first study, Airbus will develop a concept for a habitation and research module over the period of next 15 months. The proposed habitat will be to around 6.5m x 4.5m.

The second study will see Airbus designing a concept for an infrastructure element for refuelling, docking and telecommunications.

The concept, which will function as an airlock for scientific equipment called Esprit, will be around 3mx3m.

Both the studies will be conducted by a collaboration of European entities.

“Europe has a fantastic track record in both, and these two studies will help to ensure a strong European presence in future space exploration.”

Airbus On-Orbit Services and Exploration head Oliver Juckenhöfel said: “The experience and know-how that ESA and Airbus have gained during flagship projects such as the Columbus space laboratory, the ATV space transporter and the European service module for Orion provide solid foundations for the studies.

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“When developing the new lunar platforms, robotic and human space exploration go hand in hand.

“Europe has a fantastic track record in both, and these two studies will help to ensure a strong European presence in future space exploration.”

Airbus intends to present its initial designs for the Gateway at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) to be held in Bremen, Germany, next month.

ESA Human and Robotic Exploration director David Parker said: “With these studies and other preparations, ESA aims to stay at the centre of human space exploration.

“The Gateway will become humanity’s most remote research outpost and we hope Europe will benefit from the world of innovation, discovery and excitement that lies ahead.”

Nasa is currently leading the overall design, while international and commercial partners will involve in designing other elements of the lunar base including a second habitat, an airlock for scientific payloads and a logistics module.

The agency is planning to launch the first module, central power propulsion element (PPE), into lunar orbit by the 2020s.