Lockheed Martin gives first look into where astronauts may live on missions to deep space

Lockheed Martin gives first look into where astronauts may live on missions to deep space
Credit: Lockheed Martin

A massive cylindrical habitat may one day house up to four astronauts as they make the trek to deep space.

Lockheed Martin gave a first look at what one of these habitats might look like Thursday at the Kennedy Space Center, where the aerospace giant is under contract with NASA to build a prototype of the living quarters.

Lockheed is one of six contractors—the others are Boeing, Sierra Nevada Corp.'s Space Systems, Orbital ATK, NanoRacks and Bigelow Aerospace—that NASA awarded a combined $65 million to build a habitat prototype by the end of the year. The agency will then review the proposals to reach a better understanding of the systems and interfaces that need to be in place to facilitate living in .

Lockheed's design uses the Donatello Multi-Purpose Logistics Module, a refurbished module dating back to the space shuttle era that was once destined to transfer cargo to the International Space Station. But Donatello was never sent into space, and the module has now instead been transformed into Lockheed's prototype.

At about 15 feet wide and nearly 22 feet long, the cylindrical capsule is roughly the size of a small bus. But it'll be a tight fit if four astronauts reside in it for 30 to 60 days, as Bethesda, Md.-based Lockheed envisions.

The capsule is designed to house racks for science, life support systems, sleep stations, exercise machines and robotic work stations, said Bill Pratt, the program's manager.

"You think of it as an RV in deep space," he said during a tour of the prototype. "When you're in an RV, your table becomes your bed and things are always moving around, so you have to be really efficient with the space. That's a lot of what we are testing here."

The team used augmented reality headsets, which overlay real hardware with simulations, to visualize the layout of the capsule—saving time and helping Lockheed catch errors early on.

Another cost-saving measure: the reuse of Donatello.

"We want to get to the moon and to Mars as quickly as possible, and we feel like we actually have a lot of stuff that we can use to do that," Pratt said, adding that repurposing materials has become a big theme at Lockheed.

The habitat is part of the larger mission to take crews to the moon and Mars. The final version of the capsule will attach to the planned Deep Space Gateway, a space port that will orbit the moon and act as a jumping-off point for missions.

Astronauts would launch on the deep-space designed, still-in-progress Orion spacecraft—with the help of the Space Launch System, which NASA bills as the "most powerful rocket" it's ever built. The Gateway would be considerably smaller than the 450-ton International Space Station. At 75 tons, the spaceport would include the habitat, an airlock, a propulsion module, a docking port and a power bus.

Production is moving forward on Orion, which is expected to make an uncrewed mission (Exploration Mission-1) to orbit the moon by 2020. Exploration Mission-2 is scheduled to take a crew into lunar orbit in mid-2022.

At the Kennedy Space Center, the heat shields are now in place on Orion. The spacecraft has been in development on and off since 2004.

The long development time is due largely to the demands of a deep-space spacecraft and the punishing conditions the spacecraft will face when it takes the 1,000-day trip to Mars. For instance, NASA requires that the Orion crew module have zero weld defects, whereas the Apollo mission specifications had an allowable number of defects per inch.

"This is the infrastructure for sustained and so you have to account for every scenario that could come up, that's why the requirements are so stringent," said Lisa Callahan, vice president and general manager of Lockheed Martin's commercial civil division.

Lockheed now has its eyes on the finish line. Next month, the European Space Agency will deliver the European Service Module that will sit below the crew module on Orion, kicking off the final stretch of development before the spacecraft is integrated into the Space Launch System, said Mike Hawes, vice president and program manager for Orion at Lockheed Martin.

"It's all burned into our brains that we have 404 days of activity ... before we hand over to the Kennedy ground (operations) team," Hawes said.

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Aug 17, 2018
antique technology

Aug 17, 2018
People demand a Manned Space Program. Vicarious heroics for the comicbook/videogame generations.

"Use it up.
Wear it out.
Make it do.
Or do without!"

Was the now obsolete motto of real life Pioneers.

Today? No matter the useless waste, our society recklessly squanders it's resources to subsidize the military-industrial complex. Without remorse or shame for beggaring their own descendants.

My greatest concern about reusing this habitat is the all too real probability of the astronauts being blinded during their mission.

Is the shielding adequate to protect the astronauts and their equipment from a variety of radiation events?

Four astronauts, in such a small habitat? The oxygen flow has to be kept high increasing the likelihood of the astronauts suffering hypoxia induced eye damage.

When it all goes tits up...
What's Plan B?

And how do you explain it to disappointed Public?

Aug 17, 2018
What's massive about that, if the BFR actually works, which it just might, we have huge tonnage in space, and we near earth will be industrialized.. this will be nothing.

The whole 'journey to mars' will be just the show part of the whole thing.

Aug 17, 2018
This reminds a lot about heroic Kon-Tiki expedition. For something more modern consider VR Axon gaming suit and platform where astronauts would do everything in it. It's kind of like Star Trek holosuit but using technology already or almost available.

Aug 17, 2018
The best way to make a space craft for mars is to assemble it on the moon. The best possible chance we have of reaching into the rest of our galaxy is with concrete ships made with concrete made on the moon.

It isn't sexy like sci-fi. But it is the truth. Until we reach a higher level of technology and manufacturing capability within our solar system. Trying to build tiny metal pods to reach mars... would be like ancient explorers trying to build metal canoes, instead of massive wooden ships to explore.

We keep wanting to leap before we crawl. Lunar first... then solar system. There simply is no other practical way to make it happen. It is the shortest possible route to solar system colonization and harvesting.

Aug 18, 2018
Don't we have to go to the Moon first?

Aug 18, 2018
The best way to make a space craft for mars is to assemble it on the moon
Well that's about the dumbest thing I've read in awhile. No wait-
The best possible chance we have of reaching into the rest of our galaxy is with concrete ships made with concrete made on the moon
That's dumber still.

I see you provide no refs troll. Heres one you might find illuminating

Aug 18, 2018
We need to get to the moon and build a self sufficient colony to support the industrialization of space before we move on to mars.
The moon is only a few days away while it takes many months to get to mars. Things will go wrong and we need to be in a position to supply critical parts on short notice.
Our global economy consumes resources in a very unsustainable manner. If we are to avoid a major depression due to lack of critical non renewable resources we must access the limitless resources of our solar system while our economy can afford the buy in price.
We should survey the lunar lava tubes and polar ice deposits and then send a construction crew to the moon to build a colony. The moon, with its low gravity, is the ideal place to stock up on food, water, radiation shielding, and other heavy items we do not want to lift up from earth's deep gravity well.

Aug 18, 2018
Yeah cement spaceships is pretty dumb. Jeff since you obviously never actually poured cement? I'd advise you to discuss this balderdash with someone experienced in construction engineering. Do you even know the materials that make cement? The quantity of water needed to mix it? The sheer volume of water lost while it cures? And how do you expect that to work in vacuum?

To belabor a laborious subject... None of you wanna-be-a-Pizarro Brothers can produce any verified evidence to show that Earth Biology can survive and thrive across multiple generations beyond the protection of the Van Allen Belts. And in low-to-zero gravity environment.

I question your "heroic" hstronics. "Volunteering" women to bear the most arduous of burdens. Suffer the worst mental and physical sacrifices. Endure your egotistical righteousness in inflicting reproductive experimentation upon any female with the misfortune to be trapped in your delusion of conquistador superiority.

Aug 18, 2018
The moon, with its low gravity, is the ideal place to stock up on food, water, radiation shielding, and other heavy items we do not want to lift up from earth's deep gravity well
But... we have to lift all that stuff out of earth's deep gravity well to get them there. You want to duplicate the high tech manufacturing base necessary to construct mars colonization equipt and supplies on the moon, and further get it to work in the presence of vacuum, hard radiation, and abrasive regolith.
I question your "heroic" hstronics
I question your freedom to practice your psychopathy in a public forum. Or anywhere else for that matter.

Aug 18, 2018
Of course you do otto. Confronting your innate inferiority must be a painful experience for you.

As one of putz putins Putschgroppinganhänger, of course you are going to try to violently suppress anyone speaking bluntly and honestly to you.

It's just, which aspect of Fear and Hate you are representing today, that can be a quandary.

You and your goosestepping prancing boys all spiffy in your official NSDAP uniforms.

Or you in your mighty purty official Klansman satin robes as you march in a torchlight parade on your way to a lynching.

Or even in a bespoke silk suit in your role as a televangelist fleecing the suckers.

Choices. So many choices. Aren't you a lucky little devil, to live in a nation that allows you all those choices?

Aug 19, 2018


"Concrete ships", as JeffHargrove states with seeming approval, would not be easy to manufacture on the Moon, mainly, amongst other things, due to the lack of the key ingredients for making concrete that won't fall apart. The Moon's weaker gravitational pull would, however, enable a small concrete-based "ship" to break free of the Moon with an adequate means of propulsion. It might be able to float within interplanetary space in the same, or similar way, as asteroids, meteors and comets float in the vacuum of Space. The manufacturing of such a ship would be extremely labor intensive for humans, even with the weaker gravity on the Moon.
But still, it's an interesting possibility.

Aug 19, 2018
But how do you hold it together? Even a low-powered launch method would produce enough stresses and vibrations to disintegrate the concrete structure.

If you encase the cement within enough metal hull to hold it all together? What is the point of using cement at all? All you are doing is adding to the mass of the ship without increasing it's structural integrity.

Aug 21, 2018
404 days. good luck

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