Saturday, August 5, 2017

Lockheed Martin’s Cislunar Habitat to Pave the Way for NASA’s Deep Space Gateway Space Station

Lockheed Martin artist rendering of the NextSTEP habitat docked with Orion in cislunar orbit as part of a concept for the Deep Space Gateway. Credit: Lockheed Martin

Lockheed Martin has been recently selected by NASA to build a full-scale prototype of a cislunar habitat. The development of the habitation module is part of the Phase II contract for the Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) program. The company is convinced that their prototype will be a major step towards building NASA’s future Deep Space Gateway cislunar space station.

“This prototype will pave the way for NASA’s future Deep Space Gateway and other deep space habitats,” Danielle Hauf of Lockheed Martin Communications told SpaceFlight Insider.

Deep Space Gateway is a planned cislunar space station, which will serve as a staging point for future manned missions beyond Earth’s orbit. The station is expected to be completed in 2020s. However, in order to successfully construct the habitat in space, developing and testing of prototype units is needed and Lockheed Martin is one of the companies selected to participate in this effort.

The company will build a full-scale habitat prototype in the Space Station Processing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. The habitat will be a refurbished version of the Shuttle-era Donatello Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM). The new prototype will be roughly the size of an International Space Station (ISS) module, approximately 22 feet long and 15 feet in diameter.

In building such a habitat, Lockheed Martin will rely on its vast experience of developing numerous spacecraft and satellites, including NASA’s Orion vehicle designed for crucial deep space exploration missions in the future.

“We are proud to be a part of Phase II of the NextSTEP contract. Using our rich heritage of operating spacecraft in deep space through planetary exploration missions and our intimate knowledge of the Orion spacecraft, we hope to make the most of NASA’s investments to provide a unique offering,” Hauf said.

The works under the Phase II contract will last over 18 months. During the development and testing of the refurbished module, the company will focus on mixed reality and rapid prototyping, and working on concept refinement and risk reduction. Lockheed Martin will also use virtual prototyping to validate the habitat module’s form, fit and function.

These results are expected to improve understanding of the systems, standards and common interfaces needed to make living in deep space possible.

“At Lockheed Martin, we have a long heritage of building spacecraft that are designed to survive in the harsh environment of deep space with minimal human interaction, and this habitat and the deep space gateway would be similar. Also, we are also using virtual and augmented reality technology to test our assumptions throughout the design and build of this prototype,” Hauf concluded.

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