Boeing Unveils Deep Space Concepts for Moon and Mars Exploration

Boeing Deep Space Gateway (Credit: Boeing)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., Apr. 3, 2017 – Boeing [NYSE: BA] today unveiled concepts for the deep space gateway and transport systems that could help achieve NASA’s goal of having robust human space exploration from the Moon to Mars.

NASA’s Space Launch System, which Boeing is helping develop, would deliver the habitat to cislunar space near the Moon. Known as the Deep Space Gateway, the habitat could support critical research and help open opportunities for global government or commercial partnerships in deep space, including lunar missions. It would be powered by a Solar Electric Propulsion (SEP) system.

“The ability to simultaneously launch humans and cargo on SLS would allow us to assemble the gateway in four launches in the early 2020s,” said Pete McGrath, director of global sales and marketing for Boeing’s space exploration division.

Boeing Deep Space Transit Vehicle on approach. (Credit: Boeing)

The Deep Space Gateway could be the waypoint for Mars missions. Utilizing a docking system akin to what the International Space Station uses for commercial operations, it could host the Deep Space Transport vehicle, which would take humans to Mars. Once near Mars, crews could deploy a lander for surface missions or conduct other scientific and robotic missions in orbit.

The transport vehicle would be equipped with a habitat specifically designed to protect passengers from deep space’s harsh environment and its own robust SEP bus.

In fact, both of Boeing’s concepts leverage proven solar electric propulsion technology and hardware design from the 702 satellite family.

The gateway and transport systems are partially being developed as part of NASA’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Technologies (Next Step) program and an ongoing High Power SEP technology development effort within the NASA Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD).

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  • JamesG

    Net-worth isn’t worth as much as it used to be. By my stock portfolio, I’m a “millionaire”. But that doesn’t mean I’ve got a mansion and a limo.

    We DO live in interesting times where there are lots of financial shenanigans afoot that do wierd things like make a 1 BR flop in San Francisco cost a million dollars and where companies that don’t do anything or make any money but let users trade nasty pictures with each other are “worth” billions of dollars. All this “wealth” is not based on anything but greed and speculation and it can evaporate just as fast as it came.

  • JamesG

    True. But my point is that anything labeled “aerospace” gets an instant price hike, just because the industry is accustomed to it for historical reasons (gubment). That is one of the reasons SpaceX does as much in-house as it can.

  • Jeff2Space

    I’m not at all averse to doing my own searching.

    What I’ve read so far about this topic (e.g. the Space News article) is that it’s currently only a proposal. In other words it sounds like Blue Origin is suggesting something like “commercial lunar cargo” which would be similar to the current ISS “commercial cargo” program. I do not get the impression that Blue Origin is currently working on this. The way it’s presented, the US Government would need to initiate, and pay for, this.

    Without US Government paying, I would expect Blue Origin to take a very long time to make this a reality. They would certainly need to get New Glenn working first. Ideally, they’d get New Armstrong working before they’d need a lunar lander.

  • Jeff2Space

    ULA has more high energy LOX/LH2 upper stage experience in the US than anyone else. SpaceX doesn’t even have a high energy upper stage. This is a huge advantage for ULA (e.g. their upcoming in space reusable ACES upper stage).

  • Larry J

    SpaceX does as much inhouse as they can because it allows them to have complete control over quality and costs. When you buy from someone else, you have to factor in their overhead costs and profit margin. Those companies were used to gouging their customers. SpaceX eliminated as many of those suppliers as possible.

    I recall on one of the early Dragon flights (2nd or 3rd) where they had trouble activating the Dragon propulsion system shortly after separation. It turned out that the outside supplier for the propellant valves had changed the design without notifying SpaceX. That almost resulted in a loss of mission incident.

    There’s another reason why SpaceX likes to keep things inhouse. I recall talking to a SpaceX employee at the Space Symposium in Colorado Springs back around 2011. I congratulated him on their recent (2nd) successful Falcon 9 flight and noted how they solved the uncommanded roll immediately after liftoff issue that happened on their first flight. He replied that everyone knew it was a SpaceX problem that had to be fixed so there was no finger-pointing or blame shifting. They then quickly worked together to identify and fix the cause of the problem. It has never happened again. When something bad happens on an aerospace system built the normal way, everyone tries to deflect blame away from their company. SpaceX takes ownership of the problem and fixes it. That’s why they seldom have the same problem twice.

  • Jeff2Space

    Of course the cost rises exponentially! For starters, you have to scale everything up in size because manned landers are *heavy* in order to carry all the equipment for all of the functionality that keeps the meat-bags alive (ECLSS, kitchen, sleeping, toilet…) and productive (control panels, computers, airlocks, surface EVA suits, and etc.). All of that equipment is complex and cost scales with complexity. Also, all of that equipment has mass with drives up the size of the lander exponentially which ripples all the way back to the vehicle which launches the lander from earth in the first place.

    Of course manned missions can also be exponentially more productive. The manned lunar rover traversed large distances in minutes. The same distance traveled takes the unmanned Mars landers months to traverse.

  • windbourne

    Once avionics and general approach is figured out, the rest is just scaling up.

  • Jeff2Space

    LOL, if only it were that easy to keep astronauts alive and productive.

  • windbourne

    Let’s see.
    Boeing, spacex, iss, and a company in great lakes area all do eclss.

    In fact, one that makes sense is a Bigelow sundancer loaded on top of a landing/launching truck.
    It might allow for transport of say 12 ppl to/from lunar surface.

  • Richard Malcolm

    NASA does not have any money for a “Lunar Base/Village/Outpost/etc.”

    It would have the money, if it weren’t spending it on SLS and Orion.

    Or for that mater, see even Charles Miller’s study for NASA from July 2015. Of course, his proposal makes heavy use of commercial partners (and light use of SLS), which means fewer jobs in key congressional districts, so….

  • windbourne

    All it is is a gateway to more funding for the CONgress critter’s districts


  • windbourne

    I think that Blue WILL build a lunar lander for the simple reason that others will not. And it will cheap enough for him to convert NG to one.
    For all of the new space coming up, they need more business to develop.
    Realy, the moon is the first and easiest one to get going.
    For a short time, private space stations would help, but there are already too many LV chasing sats, ISS, so, space stations would not add that much.
    OTOH, having a LV, along with a lunar LV, they can provide the ability for Bigelow and others to put bases on the moon.
    And a number of nations want to go.

  • windbourne

    ok, what would have to change on NS/NG for doing lunar landings?

  • windbourne

    and you think that CONgress will not spend 1B to put a base on the moon ?

  • windbourne

    No, they do NOT have the LOX/LH2 experience.
    Rocketdyne does.

    and with SX moving to Methane/LOX, it will handle very similar, other than being colder and more corrosive.

  • JamesG

    Nope. That’s not enough. Has to be at least $10B over 20 or 30 yrs. or some other unimangiablely large number to get their juices going.

  • windbourne

    NASA has all the money that CONgress tells them that they can have.
    And the majority of CONgress is likely to push for the moon.

  • JamesG

    The whole thing.

  • JamesG

    Right now it looks like they are pushing for almost the Moon…

  • Jeff2Space

    ULA has experience with building LOX/LH2 upper stages with fairly low boil-off of the LOX/LH2. This includes tankage, plumbing, and etc.

    Aerojet Rockedyne does NOT have experience building LOX/LH2 upper stages. They have experience building RL-10 engine(s) used in upper stages.

  • ajp

    You’re really attacking the engineers? BTW, salary on the west coast is faaaaaaaar different than it is in Wichita. And on the whole, aero is pretty much on par with mechanical – whose salary doesn’t seem to hold back the myriad of other industries in which they’re employed.

  • JamesG

    No not attacking. Just stating a fact of life. If it makes you feel better, management and executives are even worse. 😉

  • duheagle

    Your reply to Larry J was a set of pointless deflections that have nothing to do with SpaceX’s or Blue Origin’s viability and prospects. I’ll be happy to concede that Democratic progressive land use regulation has made housing costs astronomical in San Francisco. That ain’t hardly news. It’s also irrelevant as neither SpaceX nor Blue Origin has operations in San Francisco. Manhattan, I hear, has a lot of very pricey real estate too. SpaceX and Blue Origin don’t do any business there either.

    I share your skepticism about the long-term viability of a lot of Internet businesses. But, again, what has the trading of nasty pictures got to do with SpaceX or Blue Origin? Neither Musk nor Bezos made, or make, their money in the nasty picture trading business. Musk made his name in software and on-line financial services before moving on to hi-tech hard goods manufacturing. Bezos started out with an on-line bookstore that quickly segued into being an on-line general store. Both have real businesses that are not subject to sudden failures even in hard economic times.

    SpaceX, Tesla and Amazon were all around in 2008. SpaceX and Tesla squeaked through that particular annus horribilus and Amazon was in no particular trouble. Since then we’ve had eight consecutive years of Great Depression 2.0 courtesy of the now mercifully departed Obama administration. Musk’s and Bezos’s net worths have climbed in every one of those eight years.

    Your notion that what goes on at Boeing also affects SpaceX and Blue Origin is equally daft. Boeing is, among other dysfunctional things, a union shop and labor relations have been traditionally lousy. Neither SpaceX nor Blue Origin is a union shop. Second, neither has to pay engineers six-figure salaries because they have stock options to offer.

  • duheagle

    No, I don’t really see what you mean. Aerospace-quality fasteners are hardly a monopoly franchise. I have no idea where SpaceX buys its nuts and bolts, but I do know for a fact that there are a lot of manufacturers of same located in Southern California so choice would hardly be a problem, even locally. If Boeing pays too much for nuts and bolts, that would seem to be Boeing’s problem and no one else’s.

  • JamesG

    Who is doing pointless deflection?

    I wasn’t speaking directly of SX’s or BO’s, or Boeing’s costs, but the general state of aerospace in the US. Boeing is the 800 lb. gorilla of the aerospace world. What it does DOES effect everyone else.

    Much of the financing that have allowed SX and BO to achieve what they have is because of the ah… liberal fiscal policy of the US government and Fed res. Inflated equities have swollen the values of companies and swamped Wall St. with money. NASA was handing out money as part of various stimulus projects of which CC Dev was one of them. Both SX and BO benefited greatly from them. Its probably not a safe bet to assume that this will continue forever.