Lockheed Martin Lays Out Deep Space Exploration Plans

Humanity Becomes an Interplanetary Species: Artist’s rendition of the Mars Base Camp architecture in Martian orbit. By leveraging developed technologies and the taxpayers’ investment in SLS and Orion, Lockheed Martin believes a human science Mission to Mars is feasible by 2028. (Credit: Lockheed Martin)
Artist’s rendition of the Mars Base Camp architecture in Martian orbit. By leveraging developed technologies and the taxpayers’ investment in SLS and Orion, Lockheed Martin believes a human science Mission to Mars is feasible by 2028. (Credit: Lockheed Martin)

At a House Space Subcommittee meeting on Capitol Hill last week, several companies laid out plans for deep space exploration. Lockheed Martin Vice President Wanda A. Sigur discussed the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle the company is building for NASA, proposed cis-lunar space operations, and a Mars base camp orbiting the Red Planet.

Lockheed Martin of a number of companies working with NASA under the Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) program, which is a private-public partnership that focuses on advance concept studies and technology development projects for deep space exploration.

Relevant excerpt’s from Sigur’s prepared testimony follow.

The technologies we are building today will enable the human exploration of Mars.

Lockheed Martin engineers and technicians prepare the Orion pressure vessel for a series of tests inside the proof pressure cell in the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett)
Lockheed Martin engineers and technicians prepare the Orion pressure vessel for a series of tests inside the proof pressure cell in the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett)

The Orion spacecraft was designed from the beginning for human exploration of deep space. The requirements for deep space, such as propulsion capability, re-entry speeds, reliability and redundancy, and the micrometeoroid and radiation environments, are much different than those for low Earth orbit and it is those requirements that have led to the development of a deep-space, human-rated spacecraft capable of missions in excess of 1,000-days. A straight shot, one way to Mars is 35 million miles – or 140,000 times farther than the International Space Station. If you’re going, you want a spacecraft built for the long haul that will safely get you there and back.

For example, Orion has:

  • radiation hardened avionics and a radiation storm shelter for astronaut safety;
    redundancy in propulsion, computers, and engines, which eliminate the risk of single-point failures;
  • a time-triggered Ethernet that is 10 times faster than your internet at home and is capable of allowing the crew to transfer high-rate data like video, all while maintaining vehicle command and control at the same time;
  • a life support system that can accommodate exercise by compensating for extra heat and moisture; and
  • a thermal protection system designed to protect against the extreme cold of deep space and the extreme heat experienced when facing the sun and during re-entry.

With our own investment, we have conducted studies that verified Orion’s Mars re-entry capability and verified our design meets life limit requirements on all parts of the spacecraft required to support multi-year (1,000 day) missions. As you can see, Orion is a key enabler of human Mars exploration.

The future of the Orion spacecraft is a strong one.

Orion splashed down safely in the Pacific after its first test flight. (Credit: NASA)
Orion splashed down safely in the Pacific after its first test flight. (Credit: NASA)

Our experience building and flying Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) – Orion’s first flight in December 2014 – has allowed us to improve the build and test processes for Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1). We’ve made improvements to our factories, manufacturing processes, test schedules, and Orion’s mass. For example, the EM-1 Orion spacecraft has been reduced by 4,000 pounds and the time it takes to produce the cutting-edge heat shield has been reduced by 30%. The team has also transitioned to 3-D printed drill templates to very precisely assemble the structural pieces of Orion saving more than $2 million just in the past three months, as compared to our EFT-1 process. These innovations are occurring every day making the spacecraft more affordable and easier to build, which will improve the production time and cost of future Orions.

Orion was highlighted as a flagship program for a NASA small business report noting that more than 800 small businesses from 47 states have played a role in the program’s success with their innovative, efficient, and affordable solutions on everything from thermal protection to engineering and procurement services. Orion development has also provided more than 800 products to NASA’s commercial crew program since 2011, including technical design data and test data and results. The innovations required for a spacecraft that will carry humans where they have never gone before is enabling future commercial opportunities and supporting the industrial base….

Humanity Becomes an Interplanetary Species: Artist’s rendition of the Mars Base Camp architecture in Martian orbit. By leveraging developed technologies and the taxpayers’ investment in SLS and Orion, Lockheed Martin believes a human science Mission to Mars is feasible by 2028. (Credit: Lockheed Martin)
Humanity Becomes an Interplanetary Species: Artist’s rendition of the Mars Base Camp architecture in Martian orbit. By leveraging developed technologies and the taxpayers’ investment in SLS and Orion, Lockheed Martin believes a human science Mission to Mars is feasible by 2028. (Credit: Lockheed Martin)

In support of NASA’s NextSTEP study contract, we’re designing a deep space habitat  that leverages the investment and advanced technology in Orion—technology that is already being designed and built today for deep space. For this Phase I of NextSTEP, the habitat is designed for the “proving ground” in cis-lunar space, or the area around the moon, as a transitional step from low Earth orbit to Mars.

By leveraging the functionality already available within Orion, such as power-coupling, communications, radiation protection, and life support systems, we can absolutely reduce the complexity of the habitat and increase its affordability.

Dr. Dava Newman (center), NASA Deputy Administrator, in a mock-up of Lockheed Martin’s cis-lunar habitat at the Lockheed Martin Waterton Campus in Colorado. (Credit; Lockheed Martin)
Dr. Dava Newman (center), NASA Deputy Administrator, in a mock-up of Lockheed Martin’s cis-lunar habitat at the Lockheed Martin Waterton Campus in Colorado. (Credit; Lockheed Martin)

We know that habitats are essential for exploration of the outer bounds of space. We’re leveraging our extensive deep space experience and working on concepts that we can continue to build on, adding functionality as needed, and support specific mission requirements as they evolve.

We’re not stopping at habitats though.

We have plans to then build upon the systems in-work today to achieve the earliest, most affordable approach for sending humans to Mars – we call this Mars Base Camp and we think we can do it by 2028.

The concept is simple: transport astronauts from Earth to a Mars-orbiting science laboratory where they can perform real-time scientific exploration, analyze Martian rock and soil samples, and confirm the ideal place to land humans on the surface.

Humanity Becomes an Interplanetary Species: Artist’s rendition of the Mars Base Camp architecture in Martian orbit. By leveraging developed technologies and the taxpayers’ investment in SLS and Orion, Lockheed Martin believes a human science Mission to Mars is feasible by 2028. (Credit: Lockheed Martin)
Humanity Becomes an Interplanetary Species: Artist’s rendition of the Mars Base Camp architecture in Martian orbit. By leveraging developed technologies and the taxpayers’ investment in SLS and Orion, Lockheed Martin believes a human science Mission to Mars is feasible by 2028. (Credit: Lockheed Martin)

Since before the first Viking lander touched down on Mars 40 years ago, humanity has been fascinated with the Red Planet. Lockheed Martin built NASA’s first Mars lander and has been a part of every single NASA Mars mission since.

We’re looking forward to humanity’s next giant leap and to answering the Big 3 Science Questions: Where did we come from? Where are we going? Are we alone?
Mars is closer than you think. And at Lockheed Martin we’re very ready to accelerate the journey.

  • It´s good to see momentum building up for deep space exploration on several fronts. We are seeing a push towards it like never before

  • BeanCounterFromDownUnder

    Nope. This is just smoke and mirrors. There is no inclination in Washington and Congress to fund any of this beyond what’s currently on the table and that’s only to keep existing workforces employed. There is no way that any of this is going to get beyond the studies and mock ups stages. Dream on.
    Cheers

  • First-Light

    It seems like every year LM shows some pretty pictures, a few years ago it was the SR-72 hypersonic remote sensing aircraft, then the transportable fusion reactor and now the mars base camp.
    The deep-space habitat for cis-lunar operations will be a much smaller, probably simpler package – co-manifested with SLS as a NASA designed-built system or a combination of commercial modules – I am positive it won’t be this.

  • Turn those trade studies into marketing material!

    Yeah, this isn’t something they are building, this is marketing for something NASA could buy. But, if some representative or senator got it into their head that this would be create jobs in their district…

  • P.K. Sink

    What about NASA’s NEXTSTEP program? And didn’t Congress direct NASA to have a prototype hab ready by 2018 (IIRCO)?

  • Vladislaw

    You would need more than one. One district for the solar panals, on district one hab, one district for the service module etc etc etc etc

    Until you have 100 districts making something.

  • Vladislaw

    They are trying to sell a location to send their Orion capsule.

  • mzungu

    I am still working on this one…Just give me 2 years, 😛

    https://www.wired.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/integratedspaceplan-19891.jpg

  • redneck

    My BS meter first dinged on the 35 million miles to Mars trip. That’s line of sight at closest approach. The Hohman route has another zero. There were enough others that I’ve sent the meter to the shop for an overhaul and re-calibration.

  • mzungu

    What’s the difference going round-n-round the moon vs doing what ever is they do ISS?

  • Paul451

    I laughed at the mock-up. I guess it comes with LM’s patented artificial gravity generator? Blank floor, nothing on the ceiling, no grab-rails, one work surface that has a horizontal bench (you know, for putting your coffee down cup on). I’m surprised there aren’t chairs.

    I mean, it takes a few seconds for them to Google image search ISS module interiors.

  • passinglurker

    There are various differences and new opportunities presented by a cislunar habitat some good… some bad…

    1. Studying human habitation in a radioactive space environment without earth’s magnetosphere or upper atmosphere. (Much like what one would encounter in transit to mars, and in martian orbit.)

    2. Working out operational procedures when spare parts and resupply are rather far away. (Nothing beats practical experience.)

    3. “Forcing congress to pay for a damn washing machine on this tin can.” and other life support necessities. (What’s the point when it’s so convenient to keep shipping up crates of fresh t shirts?)

    4. Supplying busy work for supporting super heavy launch systems like SLS and Falcon Heavy (Gotta keep SLS’s launch candice up until payloads magically materialize somehow it’s not like this zombie project is just gonna go away like constellation.)

    5. Studying the moon from orbit. (Which is slightly different from the ISS’s “study earth from orbit” gig in that it’s the moon instead of the earth… clever right?)

    6. Teleoperated rovers from orbit and applying the same technology to other planets like mars where the delay really starts to matter. (Probably the biggest short term reward for a deep space habitat)

    7. Create a staging area and depot for moon landers and deep space missions (ISS can’t do this due to inclination or something iirc)

  • windbourne

    different view in the window. 🙂

  • windbourne

    hmmm.
    I don’t think that anybody has dealt with washing clothes in space. Have they?
    That really should be.

  • redneck

    There was an innocentive challenge from NASA a few years back. I had a solution in mind at the time that might work and could be tested on the zero gee aircraft. That was about the time that I figured out that some of the innocentive prizes were expecting detailed engineered solutions rather than conceptual ideas. I’m not doing $20k worth of work for the possibility of a $10k prize.

  • ThomasLMatula

    But according to Peter Diamandis that is the beauty of prizes, to get folks to spend more money to win it than the prize is worth, just like Paul Allen spend $20 million to win the $10 million Ansari X-Prize. You are not playing the game 🙂

  • ThomasLMatula

    I agree. They are just staking their place in case the next administration changes directions, Think of it as cheap insurance 🙂

  • redneck

    I believe prizes can work under the right conditions. To me, the right conditions are not handing over my intellectual property at a loss and wandering off into the sunset with no follow on from any source. Lindberg and Rutan did well from third party sources after the prize was won.

    . I would have to believe that what I am doing would make a real difference to do it at a loss. As it was, it made more sense for me to sit on the concept until there is a chance of it being profitable, make a difference, or preferably both. It costs me nothing to wait.

  • Arthur Hamilton

    Interesting. This is Lockmart’s plan for a Mars space exploration vehicle. If each part cost as much as the Orion capsule, it’s going to be an expensive vehicle. I can’t wait to compare Musk’s BFR Mars plans and Lockheeds….

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    “…human-rated spacecraft capable of missions in excess of 1,000-days.”
    It is a fantastic spacecraft, though I expect there’ll be limiting it to six crew members….or less. How’d you fancy spending a thousand days, and nights, in an Orion with several other people. There’ll be advertising it as a space hotel next – room service with be real quick….cos they’re sitting 4 inches away.