tech2 News StaffJul 21, 2017 11:18:31 IST
Lockheed Martin is building a full scale working prototype of its NextSTEP space habitat in the Space Station Processing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. The prototype will be used to integrate emerging technologies meant to make the habitat a safe environment for crew, and to autonomously keep the habitat up and running autonomously when it is unoccupied. Lockheed Martin will be refurbishing a cargo container used to resupply the International Space Station, housed the payload bay of Space Shuttles.
Bill Pratt, Lockheed Martin NextSTEP program manager says, "It is easy to take things for granted when you are living at home, but the recently selected astronauts will face unique challenges. Something as simple as calling your family is completely different when you are outside of low Earth orbit. While building this habitat, we have to operate in a different mindset that's more akin to long trips to Mars to ensure we keep them safe, healthy and productive. We are excited to work with NASA to repurpose a historic piece of flight hardware, originally designed for low Earth orbit exploration, to play a role in humanity's push into deep space."
The prototyping will use mixed reality and rapid prototyping, as the habitat moves beyond the concept phase. The habitat will be set up to work autonomously, as it is expected to be unoccupied for long periods of time once it is deployed. Lockheed Martin will also be building a Deep Space Avionics Integration Laboratory to demonstrate command and control operations between the NextSTEP gateway and the Orion Multi-purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV), also being developed by Lockheed Martin.
NASA wants to build a deep space gateway and deploy it in cislunar orbit near the Moon, meant to support decades of human spaceflight. The gateway is meant to provide a long lasting, stable, sustainable and reusable infrastructure. Once deployed, the cislunar habitat will be used to test emerging space technologies, and work as a staging area to manned and unmanned missions to the surface of the Moon. The habitat is also expected to be a pitstop for pioneering manned missions to Mars and beyond.
Nasa is investing $65 million to build ground based prototypes of space based habitats, in partnership with six private spaceflight companies. The companies are Bigelow Aerospace of Las Vegas, Boeing from Pasadena in Texas, Lockheed Martin of Denver, Orbital ATK of Dulles in Virginia, Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Space Systems of Louisville in Colorado and NanoRacks of Webster in Texas.