Returning Astronauts to the Moon: Lockheed Martin Finalizes Full-Scale Cislunar Habitat Prototype

Personnel test the deep space habitat prototype. (Credit: Lockheed Martin)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Lockheed Martin PR) — For long-duration, deep space missions, astronauts will need a highly efficient and reconfigurable space, and Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) is researching and designing ways to support those missions.

Under a public-private partnership as a part of NASA’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) Phase II study contract, Lockheed Martin has completed the initial ground prototype for a cislunar habitat that would be compatible with NASA’s Gateway architecture. This habitat will help NASA study and assess the critical capabilities needed to build a sustainable presence around the Moon and support pioneering human exploration in deep space.

The full-scale prototype, or Habitat Ground Test Article (HGTA), is built inside of a repurposed shuttle-era cargo container, called a Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM), at Kennedy Space Center. Using rapid prototyping and modern design tools like virtual and augmented reality, the team customized the interior making full use of the entire volume of the module to accommodate a variety of tasks like science missions and personal needs of future astronauts. The team also studied how to apply the advanced, deep space capabilities that are already built in to NASA’s Orion spacecraft. Through additional research and development funding, the NextSTEP team also applied mixed-reality technology to further refine the concept.

Deep space habitat prototype. (Credit: Lockheed Martin)

“Throughout the design and engineering process of this high-fidelity prototype, we have kept the diversity of missions top-of-mind,” said Bill Pratt, Lockheed Martin Space NextSTEP program manager.  “By building modularity in from the beginning, our design can support Lunar orbit and surface science missions along with commercial operations, all while accelerating the path to the Moon.”

Over the past five months, the team used tools like virtual and augmented reality to simplify and streamline the build-up process. They also applied expertise from Lockheed Martin’s heritage of operating autonomous interplanetary robotic missions, like OSIRIS-REx and InSight, to integrate reliable robotic capabilities in to the design.

“Getting back to the Moon, and eventually Mars, is no small feat, but our team are mission visionaries,” said Pratt. “They have worked to apply lessons learned from our experience with deep space robotic missions to this first-of-its-kind spacecraft around the Moon.”

The Lockheed Martin team will soon transition the prototype to the NASA NextSTEP team for assessment. During the week of March 25, a team of NASA astronauts will live and work inside the prototype, evaluating the layout and providing feedback.  The NASA test team will also validate the overall design and will be able to evaluate the standards and common interfaces, like the International Docking System Standard (IDSS), and how to apply those systems for long-term missions based at the Lunar Gateway. Once NASA testing has completed, Lockheed Martin will continue to optimize and study the prototype to prepare for other Lunar efforts.

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About Lockheed Martin

Headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, Lockheed Martin is a global security and aerospace company that employs approximately 105,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products and services.

  • duheagle

    What has killed education is not pinch-penny Republicans but lefty teacher’s unions. In CA, where the mostly leftist tech aristocracy is very influential, I don’t know of a single high school, public or private, that has any shop classes. Maybe we could trade some of your lefties for some of ours.

    To the extent lefties are interested in binging things like shop classes back it’s probably as a way to appeal to Hispanics, who are disproportionately employed in blue collar skilled trades. The long-time lefty disdain for manual labor doesn’t play too well among people who actually do it, so this is probably just another example of lefties pandering to a potential voting bloc, however insincerely. I’d be willing to bet the enrollment of sons and daughters of the Arizona lefty establishment in shop classes is effectively zero.

    Nor will emulating the Germans save us. For one thing, the German population is cratering far faster than our own. One can keep unsustainable labor laws and such in force as one slides down the slippery slope to demographic oblivion, but not if one wishes to endure. In any event, European, including German, off-shoring to the U.S. – to take advantage of all that cheap coolie U.S. labor – will probably keep enough Americans employed to tide us over until wages in China and even Sub-Saharan Africa rise enough to make U.S. workers competitive again once productivity is taken into account.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    You should take a look before you paint with such a wide brush. That hispanic must be descended from illegal Amish immigrants from Mexico. And, that kid needs to tuck his pony tail into the back of his shirt.