Lockheed martin unveils reusable lander to pair with Lunar Gateway
Image Credit: Lockheed Martin
When NASA announced the Lunar Orbiting Platform Gateway (LOP-G) critics were quick to point out the biggest shortcoming of the facility – there was no way to land on the Moon. Now Lockheed Martin may have the answer to that criticism with the release of their concept for a reusable lunar lander.
The proposal was unveiled at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Bremen, Germany and the concept generated buzz at the convention. Lockheed Martin’s crewed lander is a single stage design meant to be fully reusable. It will also use an iterative design to allow for growth of the vehicle as needed.
The current plan for the development of the vehicle calls for the use of flight-proven hardware based on NASA’s Orion spacecraft. Initially, the craft should be capable of carrying up to four crew members and 2,000 lbs. ( kg) of cargo to the lunar surface. Once there, the lander should be able to remain in place for up to two weeks before returning the the Gateway station. The design, as presented, shows no need for refueling on the lunar surface to accomplish this mission profile.
Lisa Callahan, vice president and general manager of Commercial Civil Space at Lockheed Martin Space said, “NASA asked industry for innovative and new approaches to advance America’s goal of returning humans to the Moon, and establishing a sustainable, enduring presence there. This is a concept that takes full advantage of both the Gateway and existing technologies to create a versatile, powerful lander that can be built quickly and affordably. This lander could be used to establish a surface base, deliver scientific or commercial cargo, and conduct extraordinary exploration of the Moon.”
NASA has announced plans for a Deep Space Gateway, situated in cislunar space, as the next step on their Journey to Mars. Image Credit: Nathan Koga / SpaceFlight Insider
Representatives for Lockheed Martin pointed to the use of technology based on the Orion spacecraft to help lower costs. They believe that by using components such as avionics, life support and other systems – the expenses involved with designing and testing new hardware can be eliminated.
“The Gateway is key to full, frequent and fast reusability of this lander,” said Tim Cichan, space exploration architect at Lockheed Martin Space, who presented the lander concept at IAC. “Because this lander doesn’t have to endure the punishment of re-entering Earth’s atmosphere, it can be re-flown many times over without needing significant and costly refurbishment. That’s a major advantage of the Gateway and of a modular, flexible, reusable approach to deep space exploration.”
LOP-G is a retooled version of the lunar station envisioned under the cancelled Asteroid Redirect Program (ARP). The original vision provided for a facility in lunar orbit that would be used for robotic missions, short term stays by astronauts, and lunar access. It was considered a key component to the science and exploration mission of the ARP. The LOP-G concept was recently revived as potential way-station for astronauts going to the Moon.
As it is currently planned, LOP-G could have a unique orbit that would facilitate global lunar access for any type of lander. With a reusable lander that is stowed and refitted at the station, multiple sites can be explored for their scientific and commercial prospects. Additionally, it would be a key part of NASA’s sustained surface exploration mission. Combining the LOP-G and the Lockheed Martin lunar lander concept could provide for sustainable lunar exploration.
Joe Latrell is a life-long avid space enthusiast having created his own
rocket company in Roswell, NM in addition to other consumer space
endeavors. He continues to design, build and launch his own rockets and has a passion to see the next generation excited about the opportunities of space exploration. Joe lends his experiences from the corporate and small business arenas to organizations such as Teachers In Space, Inc. He is also actively engaged in his church investing his many skills to assist this and other non-profit endeavors.