One of the complaints lodged against NASA’s program to develop the Orion space craft and the heavy lift Space Launch System is that little if any money is left over to develop other parts of deep space missions now under consideration.
NASASpaceFlight.com is reporting that NASA and a number of other national space agencies are contemplating ways for international partners to build the remaining pieces that will be necessary to mount significant deep space missions. While current thinking revolves around voyages to asteroids, the same principle could be applied when and if NASA is ordered to shift back its sights to the moon by a future administration. There also doesn’t appear to be much thoughts of acquiring other parts of a deep space mission commercially.
One part of a deep space mission would be the Deep Space Habitat (DSH) where astronauts would live during length space voyages to an asteroid or to Mars. Japan and Russia are thought to have experience that would lead to their building such a module.
A Space Exploration Vehicle is described as a “modular vehicle that combines a pressurized cabin and crew member support equipment, a propulsion/consumables unit, and robotic support packages.” It would likely be used to approach a target asteroid closely while the Orion/DSH stands off. A Robotics and EVA Module (REM) could be added on to the DSH or SEV and would consist of “a suitlock with two suitports, at least one robotic arm with a grapple fixture and EVA positioning end effectors, an international docking system standard interface, an external equipment pallet, a crew lock, and mounting points to which elements and payload hardware can be mounted.” Japan, Russia, and Canada, the latter with its work on robotic arms, have been identified as countries that could provide these modules.
A solar electric propulsion unit, using solar arrays to power xenon thrusters could be provided by either Japan or the Europeans
All of this depends on how much other countries will be willing to spend on these and other pieces of deep space missions, what they might want in return, and whether they can be persuaded that the United States will not bail out of the project midstream, as it did recently for the joint US/European Mars sample return mission.
The arrangement would be based on the International Space Station to which international partners such as the European Unions, Japan, and Russia contributed modules and Canada remote manipulator arms.